White Collar Flight… to India

Today’s Guardian contains a provocative commentary by George Monbiot on a theme that we’ve touched on before here. The piece begins:

If you live in a rich nation in the English-speaking world, and most of your work involves a computer or a telephone, don’t expect to have a job in five years’ time. Almost every large company which relies upon remote transactions is starting to dump its workers and hire a cheaper labour force overseas. All those concerned about economic justice and the distribution of wealth at home should despair. All those concerned about global justice and the distribution of wealth around the world should rejoice. As we are, by and large, the same people, we have a problem.

I like this piece because it raises several very interesting issues, which I’m going to mention here but not answer in this post. First, is it really likely that millions of service jobs will move to India? In August, Forrester Research released a report that said yes. Their prediction?

Over the next 15 years, 3.3 million US services industry jobs and $136 billion in wages will move offshore to countries like India, Russia, China, and the Philippines. The IT industry will lead the initial overseas exodus.

Sounds like a significant number of jobs… though I’d be curious to know how they arrived at their number.

Second: suppose predictions like Forrester’s come true? Would that mean serious trouble for white collar workers in the US? Would it have a noticeable negative impact on our economy?

Third: I like Monbiot’s honesty in the last sentence quoted above. So many of the people who oppose international economic integration do so on the grounds of helping domestic (i.e. US) workers, and also on the grounds of helping workers in developing countries. Monboit correctly points out that those two are often mutually inconsistent goals. So what’s the resolution? If you want to help both groups, where should you stand on this issue?

More food for thought, and comments. I’ll pursue these issues in detail in later posts.