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It started with the call center.
Corporations learned that they could take advantage of cheap labor pools overseas for lower skilled jobs. Before we knew it, it was rare to call a customer support number that didn’t land us in India.
It made sense. With constant pressure to improve profitability, companies needed to reduce expenses, and labor is a top expense. Having the ability to leverage cheaper skills gives the company flexibility and options in a tough economy.
But it didn’t stop with the call center.
In the past few years we have seen more highly skilled jobs moving overseas. Computer programmers, engineers, and accountants are just some of the professionals who have lost their jobs to offshoring. Some employees have even had the unenviable task of having to document their roles in detail, just so their jobs can be eliminated. Worse yet, some employees have had to train the overseas organizations that were taking over their roles, getting the pink slip upon completion.
Jobs in the IT industry appear to be among the most at risk.
The Times of India recently reported that IBM was now the country’s second largest employer. In 2007, IBM had 73,000 employees in India, a 43% increase from 2006. The Wall Street Journal estimates that IBM’s workforce in India could be as high as 100,000 today.
Earlier this year, IBM stopped reporting the number of employees by country, making it extremely difficult to know how many jobs are left in the United States. Nevertheless, data as recent as last fall suggests that of IBM’s reported 400,000 workforce at the end of 2009, only 105,000 jobs remained in the United States. It appears that soon – possibly very soon – IBM will employ fewer people in the US than in India.
Is your job safe from offshoring? I don’t think so. As long as there is someone willing to do the same work for less money, corporations will continue to look for ways to move jobs elsewhere.
The Institute for Policy Studies released a report this week that says, “CEOs of the 50 firms that have laid off the most workers since the onset of the economic crisis took home 42 percent more pay in 2009 than their peers.” This data clearly demonstrates how the CEO’s responsibility to their shareholders and their responsibility to their employees are in conflict.
Where has your job gone? And what message would you like to send to these CEOs?
Photo by Vitor Lima