Is outsourcing a problem in your country?
December 30, 2004 10:11 PM   Subscribe

Is outsourcing a problem in your country?

...if you live somewhere other than the United States. Is it on the news? Do candidates for elected office pledge to fight it? Do your friends wonder where all the good factory jobs went? Do you come home with ten things from the shopping mart and find nine of them were made in China? Do you have a rust belt? Is your formerly industrial economy becoming a service economy? Is a race to the bottom and out of the country a natural progression for manufacturers as they work to keep the costs of production always lower, or is business done differently elsewhere?
posted by airguitar to Society & Culture (12 answers total)
Outsourcing is not a problem anywhere.

People who rail against natural progress, however, are the scourge of the earth.
posted by blasdelf at 1:15 AM on December 31, 2004

Response by poster: somewhere other than...

Put the word problem in quotes if you like, I ask the question because I wonder if people working in other post-industrial economies address the movement of their labor to less expensive markets in any way that resembles the reaction in the US. Where there's a difference, there's something to be learned.
posted by airguitar at 2:37 AM on December 31, 2004

The company my brother works for recently outsourced the conversion of one of their products to India. He wasn't bothered, and neither were any of his co-workers. The project took longer than expected, and although a lot of the grunt work was done cheaply, they found that there was still a lot of work to be done after the "completed" product was signed off. His feeling is that outsourcing is a good tool in situations where there is a lot of easy development that needs to be done, but it's no panacea. Because of the backlog of existing work nobody felt threatened.

I think the difference here is that everybody was confident that they would keep their jobs. (UK Labour laws and all), and the outsourced work was simply equivalant to some super-smart programming tool that did a lot of stuff. I guess the nearest equivalant is to CASE tools that promise to make you 99.9% more productive, but which actually only give you a 30% productivity gain.

This is not to diminish the abilities of programmers in other countries. I believe that (a) knowing your product & market and (b) an extra understanding of source code that you and your coworkers produced remove some of the advantages that outsourcing gives.

Country: UK
Product Type: Database System.
Language: Foxpro (It's my brother not me. Stop booing)
posted by seanyboy at 3:23 AM on December 31, 2004

(i work for a us govt/university institution in s america. they pay a great wage in local terms and save themselves some money in the process. however, it's not really outsourcing - they're here for the mountains and dark skies, and have been for a long time.).
posted by andrew cooke at 4:07 AM on December 31, 2004

With other products, we sometimes have a "Buy British" campaign, but not many people are interested in it. Even when huge employers outsource (coal, cars, grain), the only people who seem bothered are those that are affected. Far more terrifying for the man on the Clapham Omnibus is the prospect that somebody will come to his country and STEAL his job.

The exception to this is foreign call centres. People hate these, and some banks are starting to capitalise on the fact that they do not use "Indian Call Centres" (I kid you not). Personally, I don't care about the banks, but since British Rail started using these Call centres for Train enquiries, I've found it a bit frustrating. (But only because we don't tend to spell place names the way we say them).

More specifically...

Is it on the news?
Sometimes. If nothing more interesting has happened, and the BBC is looking for a reason (fox hunting) to brand farmers as idiots.

Do candidates for elected office pledge to fight it?
Actually yes. Well sort of. Most people who pledge allegience to anything British (Keep our Pound, etc) are seen as racists or lunatics. Or (as in the case of Robert Kilroy Silk, both.

Do your friends wonder where all the good factory jobs went?
Most of our good factory jobs went in the 70's and 80's and we know where they went. Thatcher stole them.

Do you come home with ten things from the shopping mart and find nine of them were made in China?
Yes, but we don't tend to notice. It comes up now and again, but people recognise that things from China, etc are cheaper and better than the stuff we'd make ourselves. The fabled 1980's British Car put pay to any pride we have in mass-manufacturing.

Do you have a rust belt?
Used to. It's now mostly Executive Flats and Call centres. Thank God.

Is your formerly industrial economy becoming a service economy?
It has become a service economy, and it has been for a while. I think the difference between the UK and the US is that as a small country, we've always bought (or stolen) lots of our things from other countries. Plus the move to a service based economy has been happening for the last 20 years.

Hope that helps a bit more than my initial reply.
Please note that these are all very subjective opinions.
posted by seanyboy at 5:01 AM on December 31, 2004

In France, outsourcing has been a problem for the past 20 years. This is pretty much on the daily news, and there are angry public denunciations of the so-called "rogues bosses" (patrons voyous), CEOs who move their company abroad overnight, without bothering to tell their employees that they have been laid off (the workers come to work in the morning and find the place closed and the machines gone). The jobs going abroad are mostly manufacturing ones: the textile industry is probably the one that took the major hit, but the metal industry, car industry, electronics etc. suffer a lot too. Service industries seem to be less in danger, because of the language barrier: there's no French-speaking equivalent of India (large developing country with lots of well-educated people fluent in another language). However, there's also a trend there, and hi-tech companies are now outsourcing programming and tech support jobs in Africa, Eastern Europe and of course Asia. There are French-speaking call centres based in Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and Romania now.
However, since most of the outsourced jobs are still blue-collar, low-wages ones, there's no big reaction to the phenomenon...
posted by elgilito at 5:25 AM on December 31, 2004

Chile. Not outsourcing as such, since our wages are still pretty low, but every now and then some manufacturing group raises a stink about cheap imports, especially from China and Taiwan. Mostly, everybody tells them "if you can't stand the heat.." and happily buys dirt-cheap shoes, clothes, etc. Overall, more people have more access to consumer goods than 10 years ago, and the overall economy keeps growing, so we keep our borders as open as possible, lower tarifs unilaterally, etc.
posted by signal at 6:29 AM on December 31, 2004

(the workers come to work in the morning and find the place closed and the machines gone)
How often does it happen.
I remember this, but didn't realise that it was quite such a problem.

Whilst trying to find the story, I stumbled on this. story about French Unions supporting British workers in a situation where jobs were being moved away to France.
posted by seanyboy at 6:36 AM on December 31, 2004

How often does it happen.
I remember this, but didn't realise that it was quite such a problem.

There has been 3 other incidents other than OCT: Metaleurop-Glencore (830 workers seeing on the evening news that they were laid off the next day), Palace Parfums (entire perfume factory moved in secret on Christmas day) and Flodor. In the latter case, Italian workers were called by the management to dismantle this potato chips factory and move the production lines back to Italy. Pretty nasty behaviour.
posted by elgilito at 8:21 AM on December 31, 2004

Dude, outsourcing is a problem for me here in the USA. All sorts of jobs I'd like are only available in Colorado, Utah, or other large western states (but not available in the city centers...) I like urban living, but companies often times find it cheaper to move offices from cities to "the country."
posted by pwb503 at 1:23 PM on December 31, 2004

It is starting to be a problem here in Slovenia (and I believe in other new EU members) as manufacturing continues to gravitate eastwards. Coca-Cola just shut down a plant here and moved it to Sarajevo. On the day that the Slovenian parliament signed the EU accession treaty, Imperial Tobacco announced it would be abandoning its production facility in Ljubljana.

It's still not a major problem, since many other European firms are setting up shop here and the wages are still competitive in comparison with the west.
posted by Ljubljana at 3:34 AM on January 1, 2005

There's a difference between outsourcing (or offshore outsourcing), which is some form of subcontracting, and offshoring, where the company moves operations to a country with cheaper labor or whatever. Not sure how significant the difference is, though. What seems to be more in the news in France (as elgilito said) is offshoring (délocalisation). Sometimes management uses it as a bargaining tool: work more hours, or the company will move operations to country X. Personally I don't think it's a problem, but I guess it's complicated.
posted by Turtle at 1:29 PM on January 1, 2005

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