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Posted By: Just me on 2008-01-06
In Reply to: ESLs - blondie

NEW DELHI - The job came with a good salary and good perks.

But, Vaibhav Vats will tell you, it was doing him no good. His weight had grown to 265 pounds, and he was missing out on social life as he worked long overnight hours at a call center. Eventually, he quit.

"You are making nice money. But the trade-off is also big," said Vats, 26, who spent nearly two years at IBM Corp.'s call-center arm in India, answering customer calls from the United States.

Call centers and other outsourced businesses such as software writing, medical transcription and back-office work employ more than 1.6 million young men and women in India, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who make much more than their contemporaries in most other professions.

They are, however, facing sleep disorders, heart disease, depression and family discord, according to doctors and several industry surveys.

Experts warn the brewing crisis could undermine the success of India's hugely profitable outsourcing industry that earns billions in dollars annually and has shaped much of the country's transformation into an emerging economic power.

Heart disease, strokes and diabetes cost India an estimated $9 billion in lost productivity in 2005. But the losses could grow to a staggering $200 billion over the next 10 years if corrective action is not taken quickly, said a study by New Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations. The outsourcing industry would be hardest hit, it warned.

Reliable estimates on the number of people affected are hard to come by, but government officials and experts agree it is a growing problem. Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss wants to enforce a special health policy for employees in the information technology industry.

"After working, they party for the rest of the time ... [They] have bad diet, excessive smoking and drinking," he said last month at a public meeting. "We don't want these young people to burn out." The minister's comments have since infuriated the technology sector, which says it has been unfairly singled out for problems that also exist in other professions.

The outsourcing industry has come under fire because the sedentary lifestyle of its employees and often stressful working conditions make them more vulnerable to heart disease, digestive problems and weight gain than others. Some complain of psychological distress.

"There are times when the stress is so overwhelming that they fail to cope with it. Then they come to us," said Archana Bisht, who set up a counseling company, 1to1help.net, in Bangalore six years ago. Her clientele has since grown to 25 companies, including such names as Intel, IBM, Hewlett Packard Co. and Mindtree Consulting.

Each day, about 60 to 70 employees at these companies seek counseling from 1to1help.net. The complaints are many, but marital incompatibility and relationship issues top the list, Bisht said, often because the long, odd working hours means couples don't have much time together.

Loneliness can also take a toll. "There is no social life," said Vats, who worked at night and either slept or watched television during the day. "You are not meeting new people."

Vats left IBM Daksh two years ago and, at 214, is still overweight for his 5-foot-9 frame, but he's happier now working with a law firm for a much lower salary.

I can't say I feel sorry for these workers.  Mting is a hard job to do period.  These  workers are why American MT's are being paid less and less every year.  I hear Citibank is the next big company to go with outsourcing big time

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