Thursday, March 11, 2004

Outsourcing Jobs


Thomas Friedman has recently taken up the issue of the loss of American white collar jobs to overseas outsourcing. In his first editorial, through a series of questionable assertions, he assures us that American ingenuity will miraculously make up for any job loss. Today, he tells us that overseas outsourcing involves "good news and bad news":
The good news is that a unique techno-cultural-economic perfect storm came together in the early 1990's to make India a formidable competitor and partner for certain U.S. jobs — and there are not a lot of other Indias out there. The bad news, from a competition point of view, is that there are 555 million Indians under the age of 25, and a lot of them want a piece of "The Great Indian Dream," which is a lot like the American version.
If you're an American worker, I'm not sure how that qualifies as good news.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for economic development, and am impressed by India's effort to provide opportunity for its people and to lift itself out of horrific poverty. I am also of the opinion that, were the U.S. economy generating jobs, this would not be a significant concern for U.S. workers - we are most concerned about "those people" taking "our jobs", whether the jobs are performed by immigrants or are performed in overseas factories and companies, when the unemployment picture is dire. If people are happy and secure in their employment, they generally aren't concerned that other people, also, are getting good jobs.

As he started with a reference to historic concerns about the auto industry, I had thought that Friedman was going to touch on that fact. But he didn't - perhaps because, despite his confidence in American ingenuity, he can't answer the tough questions people are asking. How will American workers obtain good, secure employment, such that they can count on being paid? How will they obtain benefits such that they can provide health care for their families? How will they save for their kids' college tuition? We aren't even creating enough jobs to keep up with the expanding workforce - how will their kids get jobs when they graduate from college?

No answers, of course, from Friedman's corner.

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