Indian call centre workers regularly face racial abuse from people who consider them “job thieves”, a new study on business process outsourcing centres in India has found.

Sweta Rajan-Rankin from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom conducted the study using data from two global outsourcing firms with call centres in India from 2010-2012. The results were released earlier this month. Nearly all employees interviewed for the study said they were verbally cursed and abused.

“It is a post-recession reality,” Rajan-Rankin told PTI. “Western clients are extremely cagey. If they think you are an Indian, their biggest fear is you are stealing their job, and that everything is being outsourced.”

The researcher said the study was also relevant in the context of recent developments in the United States and United Kingdom. “With Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump in America, recession, pulling back of services, we have seen a resurgence of national politics,” she said. “You might see much more customer abuse, much more racial abuse.”

The study found that abuse increases because American companies want to portray to their clients that they are providing customer service from the same country. “The rules of call agents don’t allow them to disclose they are working in India, no matter what,” said Rajan-Rankin. “As a result, they get enormous amounts of abuse, which is often racial in nature.”

The abuse shows its effect on the workers, experts said. “They face a lot of health issues, including increased stress and an increase in weight,” Shweta Sharma, a clinical psychologist in Gurugram, told PTI. Sharma said many call centre employees were prone to substance abuse.