The Shifting Dynamics of Time and Work in the Philippines

Mr Justin Stern1

1Harvard University, Cambridge, United States


Today, cities are no longer constrained by local time zones. For millions of people in the Philippines, the work day now happens at night, due to changing patterns of labour caused by globalization. What are the local, socio-spatial implications of this nocturnalization of work? This is the question I address in my talk. I focus in particular on the expansion of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in the Philippines. BPO refers to the subcontracting of different aspects of business operations to a third party. The most prominent example is the “offshoring” of customer service work. In the Philippines, over a million people in Metro Manila alone now work throughout the evening to service clients located in Europe and North America. In this paper, I show how the expansion of the BPO industry is driving a new type of urban agglomeration, one in which issues of time – and the specific time zone(s) served – shape the organization of physical space, and influence urban design and planning practices. The presentation demonstrates that even those industries which deal in purportedly “dematerialized” information have pronounced material, social, and spatial implications.


Justin D. Stern is a PhD Candidate in Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His research focuses on the interplay of economic development, technological disruption, and urban form in the rapidly urbanizing regions of East and Southeast Asia. Hey may be contacted at:

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