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Outsourcing American Jobs: Where's the Debate?

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Bert22306
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CEO
How come all of this sounds so familiar?
Bert22306   8/22/2013 4:20:25 PM
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I guess I disagree that the debate hasn't happened, else I wouldn't have seen those same questions asked and answered so many different times, in so many different ways, even right here in EE Times.

Also, there's a lot of disingenuous rhetoric in these debates. For example, if productivity in US manufacturing is high, it's not because we have a lot of worker-bee factory workers here who work 80 hour weeks and sleep under their work bench. Instead, it's because we use automation more and more, AND because we outsource those jobs that require manual labor. In the US, it's always been a race to see who can get the most done with the least amount of COST, and high on the list of costs is, of course, cost of manual labor. This goes back centuries. And businesses have never had the long-term view in any of it.

And too, there's a whole lot of politically-motivated posturing involved in these ongoing debates. As I've suggested a couple of times previously, not the least of which is that politicians, and many editorial writers in the press, bent on spinning politically-motivated rhetoric on immigration, love to conflate the problem of uncontrolled illegal immigration with that of quotas for H1B visas. The former overwhelmingly involves low-skilled labor, not to mention millions upon millions of people, while the latter is a relative drop in the bucket (tens of thousands) with STEM backgrounds. So, come out with a few platitudes about the wonder of importing STEM graduates, and hope the public applies those paltitudes across the board (and votes for you).

On this subject, we had a great time watching the new movie Elysium, last weekend. Talk about a comment on the state of things. It's supposed to take place in ca. 2050 time frame, so not that far in the future.

DMcCunney
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CEO
There has been lots of debate, none useful.
DMcCunney   8/23/2013 6:37:30 PM
Oh, goodness.  I'd love to know what the authors consider public debate.  It's certainly been discussed most places I hangout, including here.

We live in a competitive economy.  We are all in favor when we benefit, in terms of lower prices and greater choice.  We are less thrilled when we must compete, which is what is happening now.

As a general rule, work flows to where it can be done cheapest.  Government policies may try to block this, but will ultimately be unsuccessful.  Manufacturing was flowing offshore in search of lower costs long before China made the news.  Ask what used to be the International Ladies Garment Worker's Union.  What is different now is that the advance of technology  has made it possible for other forms of work to move elsewhere.  If the work does not need to be performed in a specific location, there's no reason the work must be performed here, and increasingly, it isn't.

I mentioned lower prices above as a benefit we get from competition.  Those lower prices result from providers reducing costs.  One of the ways costs are reduced is finding cheaper ways to get the work done.  Moving it offshore is one way.

A question I ask when people complain about jobs moving offshore is "Are you willing to pay more to have the work done by American workers to cover the higher wages American workers require?  If so, how much more?"  That question tends not to get meaningul answers.

If you're an American worker, you increasingly have to compete with workers elsewhere, who may charge less than you do.  You need to either do something that must be done where you are, or do something workers elsewhere can't do.  Failing that, price will be a factor in whether you get the work.

The problem is compounded by another aspect of advancing technology: an increasing number of things that used to require human beings to do them can be automated.  Whole classes of workers have been made obsolete by technological advances.  We are approaching, if not at, a point where 20% of the work force can actually produce what we need.  What do the other 80% do? In the future we are heading into, large numbers of people simply won't get jobs, because there won't be any to be had.

Outsourcing is merely the tip of this iceberg, and the wrong thing to be focusing on.



docdivakar
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Manager
Re: Outsourcing American Jobs: Where's the Debate?
docdivakar   8/23/2013 7:02:53 PM
Both commments below already say aplenty about the topic of debate and outsourcing. Ever since I have been a reader of EE Times (which is from the print era dating back nearly 18 years), I have read plenty on outsourcing and H1B topics.

May be the title of the article should be about "RENEWED" debate on outsourcing now that the corporate profits are the highest of all times as are the cash balances but neither hasn't really translated to increased hiring!

If we step back a bit and address this more as a Capitalism 2.0 debate (in my book that would be called Conscientious Capitalism), perhaps we can get somewhere assuming the participants are objective and are truly interested in offering and advancing insights.

MP Divakar

 

chrisnfolsom
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Manager
Outsourcing and stability
chrisnfolsom   8/24/2013 8:08:30 AM
I think the whold system is a bit crazy - we all know the key to winning a race is not just running as fast as you can, but knowing your strengths and pacing yourself - only a fool runs without thinking - you might win for a while, but in the long run others will beat you.  This is an issue I think we need to look at regardig our economy - macro and micro.   With the speed at which markets, labor, energy and such can change in todays market it is even a bigger problem - especially when other countries are investing large sums in markets - solar, manufacturing ans such.

Is a CEO who moves manufacturing oversease a good manager?  Did he do anything innovative, or is he just taking advantage of a rescourse change - like having gas prices or raw material prices drop?  It's great to make that money, but that does not assure you can keep making money as what you have done cannot be reapeated - you did not create the opportunity.  Can you keep developing new products and new production techniques if you don't control the manufacturing anymore?  I know working at 3M it took engineers years to become proficient in manufacturing and that was only by being intimately involved in the process - how can you do that if you are having contractors do that in China?

Work Ethic :  Work ethic is a value based on hard work and diligence. It is also a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. An example would be the Protestant work ethic. A work ethic may include being reliable, having initiative, or pursuing new skills.

Workers exhibiting a good work ethic in theory should be selected for better positions, more responsibility and ultimately promotion. Workers who fail to exhibit a good work ethic may be regarded as failing to provide fair value for the wage the employer is paying them and should not be promoted or placed in positions of greater responsibility.

----

Is it the American Work ethic what help America do what it has done over the last 60 years, or management working at peak efficiency looking at empoyees as and expense and cutting them without any more concern then they would an othe soul less capital expense?

How many board rooms have designed a part or product?

I understand the reasoning, but I think the hubris of the board room as to their intelligence to make a company run, create new products, and not include employees from top to bottom as long term investments is very short sighted.  When employees don't feel that their company will invest, or cares for them then they will not invest or care in them - it's an agreement, or was an agreement which is gone.

Hopefully the pedulum will swing back before too many young workers would rather snicker when "The American Work Ethic" is brought up, then think about it with pride.  My 2 cents...

MClayton0
User Rank
CEO
Jobs vs Careers
MClayton0   8/24/2013 2:39:25 PM
Jobs are all being automated (eliminated) and that includes the emerging countries as well as US jobs.  Careers are another story, but they concern relationships between humans, not relationships with machines or parts.  

Multi-level marketing "jobs" are really careers that pay well for those skilled in organizing other people.  These are not high tech issues, but rather "high touch."

Banking jobs are mostly gone, replaced by ATM machines, but loan officers (high touch, not high tech) are still working.  

In the STEM world, one must go where the work goes, and its all temporary in my opinion.  Engineers, scientists, systems analysts, algorithm creators, often need to move where the need is and that means projects of shorter and shorter duration these days, but plenty of them, unfortuneatly they shift globally and seasonally. 

Corporations are shrinking in human content in general, and only top guys have careers...and they often become migratory birds as well as STEM workers.  

So perhaps our schools should add human communications skills, and teach adaptive living, assuring mobility of all students, not "permanent home town job skills."  Just my opinion based on 50 years of career work globally.

A few great careers that involve more machine than people skills are still around, but even they involve travel.  Bulldozer operators, welders, truck drivers, soldiers.

While electronic devices were shifting in sales from stationary to mobile, the workforce was making the same shift.  Get used to it.  Adapt, move on, and don't expect stability locally.  Survival skills have to include migratory skills.

 

 

 

Sheetal.Pandey
User Rank
Manager
Re: Jobs vs Careers
Sheetal.Pandey   8/26/2013 1:26:08 AM
Well I completely agree on the point that American workers are quite systematic in their tasks and also robust. When they work they seriously work and not gossiping around. A very large percentage very well know to balance the work life pressures. And the system in America also supports that.

When the jobs get outsourced, the Asian culture comes in and working round the clock is quite common. Because many Asian workers dont know to say "NO". They like saying Yes to everything whether they know it or not. As a result they spend lots of time in office. Also if the job gets outsourced, for one American worker the company can hire many Asian workers.

Outsourcing if seen from a positive side is quite a business attraction, you have 24 hrs to work on a project, you definitely have financial profit.

Many American companies outsource only the maintenance and routine jobs outside the country. Higly technical and R&D work is normally kept onshore.

 

 

KB3001
User Rank
CEO
Re: How come all of this sounds so familiar?
KB3001   8/26/2013 4:37:49 AM
I guess it's not considered public debate until Lou Dobbs and Co. moderate it lol

KB3001
User Rank
CEO
Productivity
KB3001   8/26/2013 5:06:16 AM
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"this statement by Dobbs: "The truth is that American workers are the most productive in the world. They shouldn't be forced to compete for their jobs with Indian or Chinese workers who can afford to earn a fraction of US wages. Corporate America cannot expect to charge American prices for their products but pay third-world wages for their labor.""

 

This paragraph from Mr Dobbs contrains a clear contradiction IMO for if we accept productivity to be the rate of output generation per unit of cost employed, then clearly American workers are not the most productive in the world, otherwise why are Capitalists outsourcing jobs to Asia for example?

 

The genie is out of the bottle I am afraid. We accepted globalisation with all the benefits it brought to us, we should live with its disadvantages as well. One can't have his cake and eat it!!

KB3001
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CEO
Re: Outsourcing American Jobs: Where's the Debate?
KB3001   8/26/2013 5:13:06 AM
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If Corporates were paying their taxes wherever they happen to be established, this would not be a problem at all IMO. The real problem is not outsourcing per se but the way Corporates evade or avoid taxation. I mean if outsourcing is good for the balance sheet of Corporates and if these end up paying their fair share of taxes wherever they happen to be established, then the tax payer of the host counry would benefit from increased tax returns even if it means some jobs are no longer available. The state can then use these increased tax returns to compensate its citizens e.g. through re-training or even social welfare.

Sheetal.Pandey
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Manager
Re: Outsourcing American Jobs: Where's the Debate?
Sheetal.Pandey   8/26/2013 9:07:34 AM
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The problem comes when H1 visas or for that matter any visa to US gets abused by the employer or the employee. That is mostly the case. One can easily find out how many dubious companies operating out of US for being called as consultant, they either bring low end workers and give them high job or they bring good technical guys to US and there is absolutely no work for them or give them a less technical job. Here is where the problem. These dubious consultant companies dont even pay their taxes properly and take away the job of the right candidate.

Outsourcing to offshore is a good and ethical business proposal but getting the wrong candidate to US and make them work continously for long period is not quite sound.

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