Is it Fair that American Jobs Are Outsourced to India?
A Look at Both Sides of the Issue
There are always two sides to every story. It will take a lot of soul-searching, planning, sacrifice, and hard work for America to recover and create new jobs and a stable economy. If Americans take the reins and do these things, they will succeed in having a stable economy. But as long as educated Indians are able to work longer hours for lower wages than Americans–and their skills and motivation continue to improve–we should not expect the outsourced jobs to return. Deciding what is “fair” involves considering both sides of the issue, both countries’ needs…and what each can offer.
America Since 2001
Consistently since September 11, 2001, the American economy has been bombarded by economic loss and instability to a degree that Americans could not have foreseen or prepared for. Pandemics such as the mortgage meltdown and the subsequent wave of foreclosures and bankruptcies have affected 70% of the population in some way–economically, emotionally–stripping the country of jobs and hope. Not only did the unemployment rate soar after 2008, but people’s attitudes about the country and job prospects took a nose dive. It is apparent that, since the 1980’s, while productivity had been rising in the U.S., real wages–actual income that people took home– stayed the same
(http://anticap.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/fig2_prodhhincome.jpg ). People kept working harder and longer but not getting ahead as prices and perceived needs rose. According to NBCnews.com, “The number of Americans receiving food stamps has soared, from about 27 million in 1994 to more than 46 million last year , with a spike in the past few years, after the recession struck.” That means roughly one sixth of the entire population was poor enough to qualify for food stamps.
Job Loss, Loss of Income: the End of Manufacturing and the Growth of Technology
According to the Brookings Institute, “Between 1980 and 2009 the United States lost 7.1 million manufacturing jobs, about 38 percent of its manufacturing base,” and, for example, from May of 2002 through May 2012, “the estimated number of advertising and promotions managers fell by nearly two-thirds” (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Jobs in the construction industry decreased by 20% from 2007 to 2009. At the same time, low-wage jobs in the U.S. grew by over 40%, and the motivation, ambition, and real skills of at least 50% of the population have suffered since 2001. In 2013, it is now common for the average American to have several part-time jobs or means of earning income. On the other hand, in the field of technology and IT, which grew by 86% from 2000-2012 and was comprised of a better-educated sector of the population, jobs were available, and wages were often high, $50,000 to well over $100,000 a year. However, in all fields, three out of every four American workers began to describe their jobs as stressful. 10% of the population controlled 80% of the wealth, and corporate profits rose by 20% in 2011–in large part due to outsourcing as well as cutbacks in U.S. jobs. (www.motherjones.com).
The Cost of Education and Poor Mental Health
In the United States, during this same period following 2001, Education in the U.S. became increasingly unaffordable and less comprehensive–for all but the top 5% of the population– and the average person could not be assured of a secure future. At the same time, in a study conducted by the National Institute for Mental Health between 2001 and 2003, 46% of a randomly selected group of Americans were found to have suffered from symptoms of mental illness at some point, and mental illness in the U.S.–and the numbers of people on medication–rose sharply by 2008. In fact, Americans’ use of antidepressant medication rose by 400% from 2001 to 2011 (cbsnews: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20123062-10391704.html ). Continually disappointed and forced to live on less and less, Americans could not afford to have their IT or call-center jobs outsourced to foreign countries.
Yet business process outsourcing was the solution big business adopted in the last decade. Here are some reasons why.
Burned Out and Out of Steam
Americans want top wages, yet in many cases, their skills and work habits no longer match the amount of money they expect or need to earn.
By 2008, U.S. workers were stressed to the max compared to their Indian counterparts. It is well known that in developing countries, there is less stress than in developed countries, says Professor Robert Ostermann, an expert on occupational stress at Fairleigh-Dickinson University. One reason, he claims, for increased stress in countries like the U.S. is the amount of advertising and hammering the public to increase their spending and expand beyond a manageable lifestyle. Yet expectations like this contributed to the mortgage crisis: by 2008, encouraged by the mortgage industry, many Americans had borrowed on the inflated equity in their homes, continuing to increase credit card debt…and when the bubble burst, they would never again be able to have that lifestyle. Discouraged, tired, and feeling tricked by the lenders and the system, they did not want the low-wage jobs that were available–because the standard of living prevalent in the U.S. demanded something more–something they felt they had been promised but not granted.
Workers in India–who are generally poor but are not suffering from depression and are very highly motivated to earn even a third of what Americans needed to earn in the IT and call-center industries–are by comparison well educated, compliant, and hardworking. They also still have their faith, whereas many Americans have lost their belief in a higher power–or at least act as if they have. The average income in India is about $1400 a year. In the IT industry, a senior developer with 5 years of experience may make the equivalent of $9000-$11,000 a year. His U.S. counterpart will make $80,000 a year. Is it “fair” that American jobs are outsourced to India?
American IT professionals are just not a bargain–and are high maintenance. By some standards, Americans’ work is unsatisfactory; in the IT field, for example, many high-paid developers don’t return calls, and don’t work efficiently; they pad their hours, have temper tantrums… yet they expect to be paid the big bucks even though they do not demonstrate the required skills and attitude. The big companies all have offices and call centers overseas for these very reasons. For much less money, they can find workers in India who do not argue, do not demand high salaries, but more or less cheerfully do the work. They are a bit slower than Americans, and there are some communication problems…but they are human beings with needs just like Americans’, and they are available and willing. They will work for much less than Americans, and are easy to manage once you understand the culture and set up a good working relationship.
There is such a thing as karma. Americans have been selfish for a long long time. They took land away from the Native American Indians, and they took Africans from their homeland. They have often talked down other races and other cultures, and have touted their superiority. And now, they are burning out. We are burning out.
Of course, not all Americans have been selfish. But we have been all but blind to others on the planet, and just looking at history or the survival of various species, no group is on top forever. The Romans and the Greeks had their day. India has an impressive ancient culture with a great deal of wisdom and much to offer.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s their time now.
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