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Overseas Outsourcing: You Get What You Pay For

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A recent report from the Labor Department indicated that U.S. employers cut 17,000 jobs in January of this year. According to the Associated Press, this was "the first such reduction in more than four years." Many of the job cuts were in manufacturing and "a variety of professional and business services." I think it is no coincidence that these areas have seen a lot of U.S. jobs transferred to India, China, and other countries where the labor is much, much cheaper. Apparently, U.S. corporations care more about profits than the welfare of their employees. Apparently, they also care more about profits than safety. This is evidenced by so many chilling accounts of unsafe American-named products imported from China -- everything from children's toys to toothpaste. You get what you pay for. And, apparently, they care more about profits than human rights. Many manufacturing facilities overseas are notorious for their use of sweatshops, horrific working conditions, and slave labor. You get what you pay for. All this so that U.S. corporations can rake in huge profits, and reward their CEOs with obscene salaries. You get what you pay for? No, these CEOs get what others have paid for -- with blood, sweat, and tears. And it's not just the low-level manufacturing jobs that are moving overseas. As the Labor Department's report noted, various professional and business services were also affected. Chances are, if you have made a phone call for customer service in the past few years, particularly technical support, the representative who answered your call likely had an Indian accent. I have spoken with countless frustrated folks who gave up on getting their questions answered since they couldn't even make out the words that their rep was saying. I am not a xenophobe, but a customer service representative should have the necessary skills to make himself understood to his audience. You get what you pay for. I have a friend who worked as a technical writer for a Philadelphia area software developer. She thought her job was safe. After all, good technical writing must be very clear and unambiguous, and written using uncompromising standards of clarity. One of the rules of international technical writing is that you always write in your native language, or translate documentation into, not out of, your native language. Nevertheless, my friend's employer traded her in for her Indian counterparts. The resultant user guides, technical specs, and help screens were subpar, to say the least. But that didn't seem to matter to the corporate execs. Because it was all so affordable. You get what you pay for. Remember the American dream? It's looking more and more as though it, too, has been outsourced. You get what the CEOs are willing to pay for.
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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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