January 21, 2004

White Collar Goes Blue Collar

If the division of labor is really going global, there aren't too many jobs that are safe. Now, instead of competing with someone on the other side of town, you're competing with someone on the other side of the globe. Sure, SOME jobs will always stay in America...selling pit beef at Boog's Barbecue in Camden Yards....shopping cart wrangler at one of the hundreds of Wal-Marts across the country...and (like I did in college) selling cigarettes, lottery tickets, and potato chips at a gas station (contrary to popular belief...retail gas outlets only make between maybe 3-5 cents per gallon...the big margins come on bandannas, key chains, sweatshirts, and the like.) But other than very-high end services (medical, legal, professional), and very low-end services (gas, grocery, shopping), a lot of jobs could disappear in the coming years. Here's more confirmation... Researchers say the cost of hiring an engineer in India is one-fifth the amount of hiring his U.S. counterpart. Some U.S. engineers say they are having a tough time finding work because the U.S. government has let 900,000 foreign engineers work in this country since 2000. The number of visas issued is down sharply, especially since 9-11, but McClure says foreign hiring has taken its toll. He says foreign-born engineers who have worked in the U.S. are being lured back home, where U.S. companies are now hiring. "You can't retrain an engineer for a job that's moved offshore. Those jobs are gone forever," he said. The National Science Board and the Computer Systems Policy Project have voiced concerns about the increased reliance on foreign workers and jobs moving offshore. But they are more concerned other countries are doing more to educate their work force, making them more competitive with the U.S. Indeed, Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, defended their use of offshore labor when the CSPP unveiled its report, "Choose to Compete," on Jan. 7. It's a natural evolution of business, they said.


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