James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief
t is interesting when the cover of
Business Week shouts, “Is Your Job Next? A new round of globalization is sending upscale
jobs offshore.” After all the turmoil the textile industry has been through, it is noteworthy that
the finance, engineering and even architecture sectors now face the reality that with
globalization, there is no free lunch.
Is there a plausible argument that manufacturing doesn’t matter in the United States at the city, state and national levels? That question has often been asked by textile executives, but rarely answered. When it is, the answer is usually framed as if textiles were some outmoded industry of a bygone era.
And now, add accounting, aerospace engineering, silicon chip design — and, yes, even those basic service jobs that are supposed to enable the economy to grow at 3 to 4 percent per year.
Reportedly, Delta Airlines is moving 6,000 airline reservations and customer service jobs offshore to contract workers in the Philippines and India. Conseco is moving 1,700 insurance claim processing jobs to India. General Electric (GE) will move 20,000 jobs to India by year end and plans to build a large research and development center in China.
GE will focus on moving finance, information technology support, and research and development for its medical, lighting and aircraft businesses.
If the United States is home to the world’s most sought-after consumer — one hungry enough to devour a significant chunk of global production — what ensures that status over time?
Can Americans reap the benefits of a truly global economy — with its low-priced goods and oil — and stay gainfully employed? What job would you counsel the US worker of the 21st century to find that will allow him to pay the bills and retain his status as the engine of global growth? If achieving true globalization is simply a labor price issue, why not consider paying your Masters-level accountant $300 per month rather than $5,000 per month — to do everything but your on-site audit in a global economy?
Soon — and sooner than many expect — a real understanding of the concept of “fair trade” must take hold.
Is it wrong for a nation to consider its own long-term economic health? Is it wrong to insist on equal treatment, access and customs enforcement in a global marketplace? For an industry that has responded positively to health, safety and environmental regulations and invested in compliance — isn’t it fair to hold the world’s manufacturers to the same standards?
Don’t tire of the questions. The answers lie in remaining global and demanding fair solutions that ensure the economic health of the US middle class. Maybe the noise this time will be loud enough to change some minds. Or, are accounting and silicon chip design also outmoded industries of a bygone era — who knew?