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Are You in This Country? How “Local” Social Relations Can Limit the “Globalisation” of Customer Services Supply Chains

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The relocation of thousands of call centre and back office jobs from the UK to subcontractors in India in the early 2000s led to extensive speculation that the “globalisation” and “jobs flight” of service work was underway. Yet as this article illustrates some call centre customer services do not easily transfer to different local, social and cultural contexts. Call centre operations are embedded in local social relations and taken for granted skills that are difficult to reproduce outside of the locality which has produced them. Nevertheless the spatial dispersal of work can be as much a political process as it is an economic one. This article, which follows the journey of 1000 call centre jobs from the UK to India, illuminates how subcontracting service work “offshore” can facilitate a transformation of the employment relation and an escape from a difficult to discipline labour force.

Keywords: flexibilisation and control; local labour markets; off-shore customer services

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Sociology, City University London, UK;, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2010


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