Sweden Drives to be Baltic and Scandinavian Call Center Hub

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STOCKHOLM - Sweden's all out drive to attract foreign call centers to Sweden and to have foreign companies use centers based in Sweden is paying off big in terms of new jobs - up 57 percent from September 1998 to September 1999.


A study carried out for the Invest in Sweden Agency revealed that the industry grew from 3,244 seats last year to 5,094 seats a year later. "These seats translate into 7.051 fully employed call center agents in the service agencies alone," the study said.


Inhouse and independent call centers employ some 40,000 people now, and the study predicted that the industry will generate another 45,000 to 85,000 jobs over the next five years to between 85,000 and 125,000.


Four large international call center networks, three of them American - Convergys, Sitel and Sykes - and Luxembourg-based Transcom have opened operations in Sweden over the last three years. Together they hold a 27 percent market share in the outsourced call center industry.


Sykes has been especially active, the study noted, saying it had doubled in the last year and is expected to quadruple in the near future.


Sweden, the study said, exemplifies a fairly new trend in the industry towards regional rather than pan-European call center operations. Companies located in Sweden use it as a base for the four northern countries.


Languages are available, not only the Scandinavian Swedish, Danish and Norwegian, but also the urdic-based Finnish. More important for the future is the availability of Baltic language speakers.


The Baltic region is economically diverse since it includes parts of Germany, Poland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, countries whose economic development lags behind Scandinavia.


The German parts of the region made up the old German Democratic Republic that have not caught up with the western and central regions of Germany, even 10 years after the collapse of the GDR.


But economic analysts believe the Baltic region has potential for more rapid economic growth than other members of the old Soviet Union or the Soviet bloc.


While telemarketing and market research are still the most common Swedish call center tasks, a clear trend toward technical support of major multi-nationals is developing on this market, the study said.

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