30 October 2003

The McKinsey Quarterly has published a detailed analysis of the economic benefits to the US of moving jobs offshore. The problem with their argument comes all the way down at the bottom of the article:
"The total possible wealth creation does not, of course, ease the plight of people who lose their jobs or find lower-wage ones. The statistics showing that 69 percent of those who lost jobs in the nonmanufacturing sector were reemployed also show that 31 percent were not fully reemployed. And while, on average, those who found new jobs secured similar wages (96.2 percent of their previous wage), 55 percent took lower-paid jobs. As many as 25 percent took pay cuts of 30 percent or more."

For those people, which increasingly includes highly educated technologists, good severance packages and strong training programs are critical. If offshoring really does create new and better jobs, then it's essential for US workers to be prepared for those new jobs. In order to accomplish that, some of the financial savings need to be reinvested in US workers, either directly by the companies doing the offshoring, or indirectly by tax-funded government programs.

The problem is that companies planning to ship jobs offshore are assuming that the savings (if any) will drop straight to the bottom line, and thence to executives and shareholders. They are likely to resist any suggestion that it isn't all gravy. Meanwhile, the current administration seems committed to tax cuts that starve existing programs and make new programs impossible.

To see the likely result, visit just about any town in the Rust Belt. The old jobs went away, the new jobs were created elsewhere, and huge swaths of the former manufacturing heartland are stuck in a low wage limbo where the best jobs are at Walmart and telemarketing centers.

(Links by way of Techdirt.)

Posted 11:14 AM

In the US, working in a call center is a lousy, boring job with a high rate of attrition. Turns out the same is true in India, where growth in the IT sector is giving call center workers other opportunities.

Posted 10:41 AM

28 October 2003

Atlantic correspondent William Langewische is a former professional pilot who's covered several different aviation disasters. His thoughts on the Columbia accident are worth reading. In particular, he observes that NASA's most serious problem isn't its fault. US policy on manned space flight has been drifting since Apollo, leaving NASA without clear objectives or consistent funding. The struggle to survive as an organization contributed to the problems that ultimately doomed the Columbia mission.

Posted 11:51 AM

Kansas Senator Brownback has introduced a bill that cleans up a number of privacy and consumer protection issues surrounding copyrighted materials. Among other things, it would protect consumer information from the sort of blanket subpoenas now being issued by both the RIAA and pornographer Titan Media (LA Times link, free registration required). It would also explicitly allow common secondary uses of digital content and prohibit the use of digital rights management to prevent such secondary uses.

It's a good bill, but it's currently languishing in committee for lack of co-sponsors. This would be a good time to tell your senator that these issues are important to you.

Posted 11:10 AM

27 October 2003

Slowly, by fits and starts, the Internet is reinventing the book. The revolution took a big step forward this week, with Amazon's new Search Inside the Book feature. Wired helps explain the implications of a digital Alexandria.

Posted 07:08 PM


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