Since when is outsourcing a form of automation?

by Stormy
lifted from an e-mail

The difference between automation and outsourcing becomes stylistically blurred in this NYT’s piece:

During the recession, domestic manufacturers appear to have accelerated the long-term move toward greater automation, laying off more of their lowest-skilled workers and replacing them with cheaper labor abroad.

Since when is outsourcing a form of automation?

The modifying participle phrase “laying off,” grammatically modifies “automation.” A participial phrase adds definition to a noun. For example, the author could have written….”move toward automation,” taking advantage of new computer developments.

Automation is quite different than outsourcing to cheap labor abroad. “Outsourcing” is not automation. If the author had actually cast the sentence properly– “…greater automation AND outsourcing …”–, then he or she would have been obliged to say what percentage is automation and what percentage is outsourcing. Furthermore, automation does not happen overnight…and it is initially expensive. So…during the height of our great recession, manufacturers found money to invest in automation or did they outsource labor abroad, where the investment is not nearly as expensive…if indeed there is any expense.

Apparently the jobs lost will never return. I would ask: Which jobs? The jobs outsourced or the jobs automated.

The author then proceeds to delineate only those jobs that require more advanced skills … as if that is the real problem. I would ask the author to delineate as well some of the jobs outsourced (never to return) and some of the jobs automated (never to return). Instead, the problem seems to be one of education…or at least moving in that direction. In which case, the problem becomes the unemployed’s fault. These new flashy jobs certainly do not pay very much, $18 to $23/hr, $37,440 to $46,000/yr (two week holiday), pre-tax dollars.

If this is the best thinking available to the New York Times, we certainly never will address the problem of jobs. But then, we never have been able to define the root causes of many of our problems with any accuracy. If you have no idea of what is killing you, make out your last will and testament now.

Rdan here…”The jobs, which would pay $18 to $23 an hour, require considerable technical skill.” Maybe the company needs to either invest in training and not whine about government programs not doing it right (“raises policy questions”). It is also possible in this market they are not paying enough to attract already trained workers with ‘considerable technical skill’ and need to pay more. After all it is a competition. Maybe the company refused to help with moving back to the area to a job that pays the same elsewhere?(for those who might have fled to parts unknown in the worker ‘flexibility’ and cost savings companies love), or ‘trained’ workers already have similar or better paying jobs locally and the company refuses to pay prevailing wages for trained workers.

The entry level wages mentioned at 10$ to 12$ an hour have no bearing on jobs needing ‘considerable technical skill’ as a comparison.