No Call for Action? Why There Is No Union (Yet) in Philippine Call Centers


  • Niklas Reese
  • Joefel Soco-Carreon



Call Centers, Coping Strategies, Everyday Resistance, Philippines, Precarity


This contribution presents fi ndings from a qualitative study which focused on young urban professionals in the Philippines who work(ed) in international call centers – workplaces usually characterized by job insecurity and other forms of precarity, factory-like working conditions, and disembeddedness. Nevertheless, trade unions in these centers have not come into existence. Why collective action is not chosen by call center agents as an option to tackle the above mentioned problems – this is what the research project this article is based on tried to understand. After outlining some work related problems identifi ed by Filipino call center agents, the article will focus on the strategies the agents employ to counter these problems (mainly accommodation and everyday resistance). By highlighting fi ve objective and fi ve subjective reasons (or reasons by circumstances and reasons by framing), we conclude that it is not repressive regulation policies, but rather the formative power and the internalization of discourses of rule within individual life strategies that are preventing the establishment of unions and other collective action structures.

Author Biographies

Niklas Reese

Niklas Reese is a social scientist, freelance journalist, and researcher, with regional focus on the Philippines, Germany, and Latin America and working mainly on issues of democratization, gender, migration, social movements, and social security. Since 1997, he has been involved in political solidarity work through his involvement with the philippinenbüro, a socio-political information center on the Philippines in Germany. Currently, he is working on his PhD thesis on The Sense of Citizenship Amongst the Lower Middle Class in the Philippines. Contact:

Joefel Soco-Carreon

Joefel Soco-Carreon studied Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City, Philippines, and was research assistant at the three-year research project on the Making of Social Movements Under the Condition of Precarization and Transnational Migration in South East Asia, directed by the University of Bonn: 2010-2012.    






Current Research on Southeast Asia