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U.K. bank to ship up to 5,000 jobs overseas

Barclays will move at least 500--and possibly as many as 5,000--call center jobs to India, with South Africa also under consideration, according to media reports.

British bank Barclays will move at least 500--and possibly up to 5,000--call center jobs out of the United Kingdom. Most will be outsourced to India, with South Africa also under consideration, according to media reports.

The Evening Standard, a British daily, reported this week that part of Barclays call center operations would go offshore, with up to 5,000 jobs eventually involved.

However, a Barclays representative denied the report Wednesday and said there were no plans for outsourcing at present. The representative declined to comment on future plans, saying instead that the industry was looking into offshoring and that it was a complex issue. Barclays has said it was in talks with the U.K. banking union, Unifi, about international outsourcing.

Barclays recently set up operations in India with 500 staff. The jobs were created in 2003 with 250 of them replacing British jobs, reported the Daily Telegraph, another British daily. Only 40 British-based staff left Barclays as a result of the India operations opening, with the remainder redeployed within the bank.

The Indian operation is presently administration and back-office processing with no call center functions.

Barclays has about 58,000 employees in the United Kingdom, with 9,500, or about 16 percent, in call centers.

More and more British companies are turning to outsourcing, although at a slower reported rate than American companies. Recent reports have estimated that less than 15 percent of leading British companies have started outsourcing activities, compared with 35 percent of their American counterparts.

It is estimated that the United Kingdom has lost as many as 50,000 jobs to Indian outsourcing in the last two years. Call centers employ about 600,000 people in the United Kingdom, but are expected to shrink rapidly with jobs migrating to India, South Africa, Eastern Europe, the Philippines and China in the near future.

Security and unemployment fears have been voiced, and the British government has ordered an independent study of the effects of outsourcing. The study begins in January and will last about three months. The British government has downplayed outsourcing worries so far.

CNETAsia staff reported from Singapore.