Blame Canada. Great White North becomes huge force in global contact centre industry: UBC study


Vancouver - Canada has become a highly attractive location for the contact centre industry, creating a surge of jobs over the past decade and establishing Canada as a major industry player that ranks third after India and Ireland. According to a new study from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada now serves a significant portion of the international market, particularly the United States market.

"Everyone's talking India, India, India," says UBC Professor Danielle van Jaarsveld, "but this phenomenon of US firms nearshoring customer service to Canada hasn't received a lot of attention."

Researchers studied 406 contact centres, otherwise known as call centres, across Canada and discovered that 30 per cent were primarily handling calls with US customers.

"Neiman-Marcus doesn't have a physical store in Canada but their customer service contact centre is here," says van Jaarsveld. "We were surprised by how many contact centres located in Canada are dedicated to serving a US customer base."

The findings suggest several factors make the Canadian contact centre industry attractive to US firms: the availability of skilled labour; similar time-zones; accent-neutrality; easy travel options to Canada for management; cultural compatibility; and, workers that benefit from a national health care program.

This new Canadian research is part of the largest-scale study ever conducted into contact centre management and employment practices, covering almost 2,500 contact centres in 20 countries, involving more than 40 scholars from 20 nations.

Canada is rarely noticed as a major provider of services in the international contact centre industry, however, the global study found that the portion of contact centres serving international customers is

73 per cent in India, 37 per cent in Ireland and 35 per cent in Canada.

This new study, The Canadian Contact Centre Industry: Strategy, Work Organization & Human Resource Management, was authored by Sauder's Danielle van Jaarsveld, with Ann Frost of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and Sauder Ph.D. student David Walker.

The UBC researchers studied employment conditions in contact centres across Canada with the largest centres concentrated in the Maritimes and the majority located in Ontario. The study found widespread diversity in both employment practices and working conditions. Other key findings of the Canadian study include:

Workforce Characteristics

  • Women constitute 69.1 per cent of the workforce
  • 54.1 per cent of the workforce have some post-secondary education

Pay & Benefits

  • On average, agents earn $31,468 (CDN) in annual pay
  • Despite an overwhelmingly female workforce, only 5.3 per cent of centres offer daycare as a benefit.

Operational Characteristics

  • The majority of centres, 77 per cent percent, handle calls initiated by customers (in-bound calls).
  • On average, workers speak with 100 customers a day, with an average call lasting 5.5 minutes.

Outsource versus In-House

  • The majority of centres in the Canadian study, 62 per cent, are 'in-house' operations that serve a firm's own customers.
  • Outsourced' centres, which are operated by subcontractors to serve customers of one or several companies, constitute 38.7 per cent of the study.

Union versus Non-Union

  • 19.9 per cent of centres are unionized although unions are relatively rare in outsourced contact centres.
  • Union presence has a significant impact on the bottom line: employees earn 36 per cent more in unionized contact centres than their non-union counterparts.

To read more about the study, go to

The Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia is Canada's leading academic business school, recognized globally for its contributions to the transformation of business practices through innovative research and teaching. The school has over 28,000 alumni in 70 countries around the world.



Derek Moscato
Sauder School of Business
Tel: 604-822-8345

Julie-Ann Backhouse
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.2234