India's success with call centres and information technology was paying rich dividends with a survey this week revealing that the country's workers enjoyed the biggest pay increases in Asia this year. Salaries rose by an average of 14 per cent in India, according to the survey by Hewitt Associates, a global human resources firm. This was twice the figure for the Philippines, which is also witnessing a growth in its call-centre operations. India's gains were due to the phenomenal success of its booming call centres and IT sectors. Virtually every day sees a new household name in the UK and the US announcing that it is moving its back office or call-centre operations to India. The latest big firm to announce such a move was the National Rail Inquiries telephone service in Britain, which provides information about train journeys. But the export of call-centre work to India may slow down if the jobs market runs out of enough trained staff. In fact, one of the reasons for the high pay rises in this sector was because the firms were competing for staff. 'With multinationals making a beeline for Bangalore and other Indian cities, you have a tight job market, in particular for trained, experienced, tech-savvy English speakers,' said E. Balaji, a human resources expert with Ma Foi Consultants in Bangalore. And while India ranked highest in salary increases, it still remained one of the lowest-paying countries in Asia, with millions living below the poverty line. Hewitt Associates' projections for 2004 indicate only marginal pay increases. The study of 991 companies in 11 countries measured salary increases across five categories: senior management, manager, professional/technical/supervisory, clerical and support, and manual. It was the third category - professional/technical/supervisory - that experienced the highest salary increases for the fifth year in a row. In China, salaries rose by 6.7 per cent to 7.3 per cent, in Singapore it was between 2.1 and 2.4 per cent, in Japan 1.6 to 2.1 per cent, and in Hong Kong 1.3 to 1.5 per cent The other countries surveyed - Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and Australia - averaged increases ranging from 3 to 5 per cent. Mick Bennett, Hewitt Associates' managing director for Asia Pacific, said that the increases were only slightly higher than those of the previous year. 'Employers are still cautious over the slow pace of the economic recovery. The outbreak of Sars earlier this year may have had some impact on salary increases because there are fears the virus will return as the weather gets colder.' However, a high staff turnover was a major concern in many countries, according to the survey. Though the average turnover rate was 10 per cent, in Malaysia, it was as high as 17.7 per cent, while in China it was 13.4 per cent and in Taiwan 13.3 per cent.