With few local English speakers, call centers need deportees
Education First recently published the seventh edition of its world English Proficiency Index. The Index ranks countries by the English language skills of their population. In that index, El Salvador finished last among all the Latin American countries and finished 69th out of the 80 countries worldwide included in the Index. El Salvador's English proficiency was classified as "very low."
Spending a great deal of time in El Salvador, this was not particularly surprising to me. Although Salvadoran public schools purport to teach English, I have met very few high school students who have achieved much more than being able to ask my name and to count in English.
This lack of locally produced English language skills explains why call centers, which are a major industry in El Salvador, are looking forward to growing numbers of deportations under the Trump administration, especially with the cancellation of TPS. Reuters recently reported:
The [call center] industry, which employs 47 percent more people than two years ago based on government data, is now eyeing a growth spurt after the Trump administration said it would end immigration protection for more than 200,000 Salvadorans.
The decision has alarmed Salvadoran immigrants, many of whom have lived for years in the United States and fear returning to a homeland that frequently features among the world’s most violent nations.
They dread the prospect of seeking jobs in a country where the minimum wage is less than $10 per day and two out of three people work in the informal economy.
The call centers, some run by foreign firms including Tampa-based Convergys Corp and Paris’ Teleperformance SE, could help soften their return with higher paying work making calls and answering customer enquiries.Articles in the past year have described El Salvador's call center industry and its use of deportees including:
The Deportees Taking Our Calls in the New Yorker.
Meet El Salvador's Growing Middle Class: Deportees from the U.S. in the LA Times.
Call Center Jobs Await Deported Salvadorans from Reuters.
In Deportation Profits, author Hilary Goodfriend painted a picture of a sweatshop environment in call centers which she described as part of a neoliberal process in which jobs are sent offshore from the US and then workers are deported to fill those jobs.