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The Unstoppable Shift of IT Jobs Overseas 1084

Posted by michael
from the adapt-or-die dept.
514x0r writes "The spectre in the back of many of our minds is that in a few years we may be replaced by an underpaid programmer in India. Newsforge.com is currently running an article about why this is unstoppable, that actually ends on a positive note...sort of." Newsforge and Slashdot are both part of OSDN.
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The Unstoppable Shift of IT Jobs Overseas

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  • by ogre2112 (134836) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:03PM (#6829801)
    "corporate biggies outside of software companies tend to consider their IT people as somewhat ... strange ... more often than not. This is not a new phenomenon. I remember a guy who worked as a mainframe tech for a bank back in the late '60s who went by the name "Paul the Prophet," and had a dyed-green mustache."

    Ok, that's just hilarious.
    • Re:Green mustache? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Decado (207907) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:03PM (#6830528)
      Nope, what is hillarious is that all that is required to prevent this is legislation requiring any american company to pay any employee US equivalent wages for the job they do, regardless of the work they are doing. This simple legislation would have sorted out the sweat shops long ago, and is not expensive to enforce. You dont tax Nikes at a higher rate because they are cheap to produce, you should just make sure the company pays all its employees a fair salary. Of course this outsourcing will fuck up the US economy, because every billion paid oversees workers is 3 billion less paid to american workers. That is hauling money straight out of the primary consumers pockets. That has to mess up something. Nevermind that the offshoot of outsourcing manual labour was cheaper cars, cheaper TVs, cheaper microwaves etc. Does anyone see us getting cheaper software out of this?
      • Re:Green mustache? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mcrbids (148650) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:30PM (#6830911) Journal
        Nope, what is hillarious is that all that is required to prevent this is legislation requiring any american company to pay any employee US equivalent wages for the job they do, regardless of the work they are doing.

        Nope! Bzzzzzzzztt! I call Bullshit!

        You think that if this kind of law was passed, that it would make *any* difference at all?

        All that would happen is that the Nikes of the world would re-incorporate oversees as "Nike-Asia" or something, becoming two separate companies with a complex arrangement of contracts, and the work would be done by a "foreign" company (Nike-Asia) by contract, and the products (software) "imported" into the US by a "local" company. (Nike)

        In fact, I'd be pretty certain this has already done in order to prevent passage of liability.

        In short, it's called "out-sourcing" and it's done legally any time any company provides a service to another.

        There are no easy ways to stop this.

        It's just market economics doing what they do best - balancing out supply and demand. So, do as the article says, wise up, and be very aware of the many opportunities as they arise.

        There will most certainly be plenty!
      • Re:Green mustache? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Skidge (316075) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @02:44AM (#6831552) Homepage
        Nope, what is hillarious is that all that is required to prevent this is legislation requiring any american company to pay any employee US equivalent wages for the job they do, regardless of the work they are doing.

        What are US equivalent wages, anyway? I think I should get paid what Silicon Valley programmers get paid while I live in Middle-of-Nowhere, Ohio. Sure, the cost of living is only a third of what it is in California, but it's only fair.
  • Bad? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WatertonMan (550706) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:03PM (#6829810)
    This is only bad if you simply want to be told what to do and want to remain the computer equivalent of a "manufacturing laborer."

    If, instead, you see this as an opportunity to start your own company, become proactive, and actively be more creative, then this isn't a bad thing. It provides labor for small businesses that they could otherwise not afford. (We were able to hire excellent programmers for half the cost) Further, if you are an excellent programmer in a specialized field, then you aren't going to have much trouble anyway. People will seek you out. We do.

    So contribute to Opensource software. Get your name out there.

    But if you think that you can just "punch the card" then in my opinion you deserve what you get. And if you think you can stay in California, well, good luck unless you figure a way to build the better mousetrap that everyone wants.

    • Re:Bad? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jmccay (70985) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:37PM (#6830021) Journal
      How is this insightful? This is clueless. This just shows how little you know about the current unemployment situation!
      Excellent programmers get lost in the stack of 500 or more other resumes that get sent to the company within the first 2 hours that a job is posted!
      The problem is not limited to California. I live in Southern NH, and Southern NH & Northern Mass has a lot of unemployed Programmers/Software Engineers/Software Developers, IT people, and other tech related people.
      Usually, the person who gets hired (70% to 80% of the time) is the person who had a friend or relative in the company. It's called networking, and it has nothing to do with computers or skills. As long as you might fit the bill you can get in.
      The other thing you failed to mention is that most start ups fail in the first year. Half of the rest fail in the next few years.
      I REALLY hope you don't have to experience the current unemployment problem from a first hand perspective.
      I should mention that contracting is as much an option as it used to be because a lot of contracting shops are being under bid by foriegn labor too. I know people who work for some.
      • Re:Bad? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lemmy Caution (8378)
        Your complaint will have much more integrity if you go through your closet and find no clothes made in Thailand, China or Indonesia; if you go into your garage and find a ca not made in Mexico; if you look on your entertainment rack and find goods made in the first world, not in the third.

        Otherwise, you're just being a self-serving hypocrite who is happy to enjoy cost savings for jobs exported in every other industry except your own.
        • Re:Bad? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by FatherOfONe (515801)
          There is a HUGE difference between manufactured goods and software development. It takes effort and money to bring goods in to the U.S. and those goods are generally taxed. Software development isn't, and it takes little effort to "move" code.

          The other core difference is that the other jobs took more than 10 years to move offshore, this has taken around 2.

          I do find it ironic that hardly ANY open source development gets done by Indian programmers though...

          Also, this will just speed up the use of unions
          • Re:Bad? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by EastCoastSurfer (310758) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @12:26AM (#6831124)
            I do find it ironic that hardly ANY open source development gets done by Indian programmers though...

            Curious you should mention this. It is possible that it is just the firms I have dealt with, but it seems that very little innovation happens in these Indian code shops. You hand them a spec and it is coded too. If the spec is flawed they don't want to help you work through the flaws. Instead they code the flawed spec and question you when you ask why you weren't informed about the problems.

            This ties in to the numerous complaints heard from support call centers that have been moved to India. The support people follow the scripts(aka specs) given to them, and any deviation is met with little self thought or motivation to solve the problem.

            Now, I'm not anti Indian or anything of the sort. Maybe companies are just getting what they payed for out of a 5k-10k/year worker. Perhaps the cultural difference is the problem in the above situations.
          • Re:Bad? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by The-Bus (138060) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @08:43AM (#6832331)
            The other core difference is that the other jobs took more than 10 years to move offshore, this has taken around 2.


            IT industry began in 2001? It has taken since the beginning of the IT industry for this to happen. It's gonna happen to almost every industry. Real estate and medicine are two that I know will not be affected as much. But I think that what is happening with the IT sector is going to happen with a lot of financial companies. Would you mind having your stockbroker be just as good but living in Singapore and making $50,000 instead of $1.5m?
    • Re:Bad? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:55PM (#6830128)
      I'm not sure what's wrong with "punching the card". There are 4 types of jobs in technology, all are needed equally.

      1) The people with ideas
      2) The people with money
      3) The people that do the work ("punch the card")
      4) The people that sell

      I don't see any reason why it's "OK" that we're outsourcing #3. It's elitist to argue that we're outsourcing only the "lower caliber" jobs. Not everyone can be, wants to be, or is competent enough to be "the best".

      I work in a company where everyone thinks they're the best, and very few do work. I've worked very hard to assemble a team of "punch the card" types who know their job and do it well, 5 days a week, 8-10 hours a day. We're the only group that has actually BUILT something. I like and respect my team, and I would hate to think they're losing their jobs because somewhere else in the world there is someone willing to work for cheaper.

      I also take issue with the idea that offshore labor is somehow inferior and fit only for "manufacturing labor". They're smart, well educated people (depending on the job) and the only thing they do not have is that immaterial part of a design shops property that's a combination of experience, tools and process which makes things happen. Their intention is to learn this, and then take our business from us too (which is what I'd do in their shoes too).

      I would like to see the US gov't protecting it's workforce, by the usual means (tax breaks for companies using american employees, trade negotiations, etc). Our governments priority is to take care of its citizens first, then the rest of the world. Right now we appear to be protecting shareholders and investors (who are the only ones who really benefit from offshore labor) at the expense of the average joe.

      • Re:Bad? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HiThere (15173) *
        Don't worry. Once the people at the far end get the training, groups 1,2, & 4 will join in the parade.

        This is one reason that many groups campaign to keep entry levels expensive. This is why craft unions tend to limit memberships to sons and daughters of members. That doesn't make this the correct response.

        It's rather like a restatement of the old question "Which is the last job to be replaced with a robot?" Answer: The person who decides which jobs to replace. Skills aren't the issue. The issu
    • Exactly, (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blunte (183182)
      Be an entrepreneur. Take some risks, try to fill that niche market, etc.

      Working for big companies usually sucks anyway, since big companies are full of useless middle and upper management who thwart your every attempt to do something useful.

      I have a friend who works for a large US software company. He spends perhaps 10% of his time working. The rest of his time is spent asking for work or trying to communicate with his manager or anyone upward who might be able to give him something to do.

      Most managem
  • by CowBovNeal (672450) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:04PM (#6829814) Homepage Journal
    And you're a bloody hypocrite if you do.

    All you accomplish through getting the government involved to prevent outsourcing is hurting a hundred people through higher prices for the sake of one person.

    You don't have a right to an IT job. If you have one, great. Make sure you have skills that are so valuable that you won't be outsourced. If you can't do that, then find another line of work, you lazy bastard. Should the government have done something to protect operators of horse drawn buggies that were put out of business when cars came to the market?

    I was thinking about going into IT. The recent fad of outsourcing makes me rethink my priorities. I don't want to benefit by causing prices to rise beyond free market levels and screwing my fellow citizens who have little to do with this.

    When Microsoft pleaded that the GPL would destroy their ability to make money, someone responded, "Tough. Adapt or die."

    So, to those IT workers who feel they're being cheated by having something taken from them, when in fact they did not have an inherent right to what they have:

    Tough. Adapt or die. Offer something in America in IT that foreigners cannot offer or find some other line of business. I refuse to support people who want to screw me.

    Economic illiteracy like this is the reason why we get screwed by the Republicans and the Democrats so often. Quoting John "Candy" Keynes. Sheesh.
    • Get off of your bloody high-horse, asshole. I'll bet your job hasn't been out-sourced to India, China or Korea yet.

      This is all about profit. The corporations want to make more profit, and the way to do it is to get rid of expensive American workers and get cheap over-sea's labor. Your skills don't mean squat to them. There's no such thing as being so valuable that you can't be replaced by three Indian programmers that cost the company less combined than your salary did.

      Wake the fuck up and start doing
      • The corporations want to make more profit, and the way to do it is to get rid of expensive American workers and get cheap over-sea's labor.
        By coincidence, I live a block from the Thai-Mandarin Garment Factory, where former US textile jobs have been for about twenty years. If you want a job, they're always hiring.
        The starting salary is US$3.50 a day.
        Wake the fuck up and start doing something about it before we're all working at Wal-Mart or McDonald's.
        Welcome to globalization. Hope you're ready to change professions like my American friends in the clothing industry did twenty years ago. The jobs don't move back to America. Trust me.
    • Should the government have done something to protect operators of horse drawn buggies that were put out of business when cars came to the market?

      You're missing the point... This isn't about some technology roll-over putting obsolete workers in the unemployment line. This is about companies operating in the richest country in the world screwing over the middle class so the executives can spend an extra week in the Bahamas or put in that new backyard tennis court they've been wanting. The article points out that this is not just an IT problem, but has been happening for years in other industries.

      Labor unions in this country fought really tough battles to get us workplace standards that we take for granted today. Big-business fought like hell to keep the average american worker a low-waged, uneducated worker-bee. Thankfully, they lost that battle... Only problem is, now they're looking overseas for a workforce to exploit and the american workforce gets screwed again!

      g00r00? [ngsec.biz]
      • Including me, and I like it.

        When I buy stuff, I buy the cheapest stuff. I don't care where it's made, it's all the same planet to me. And you know what? 99% of IT workers are the same way.

        It doesn't freaking matter. As long as we keep outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, we can keep making less money and maintain the same standard of living, because things keep getting cheaper.

        I know its comforting and easy to blame "greedy corporate executives", but if you think the money that's saved from hiring foreign workers goes into executive pockets, you're an idiot. It goes to lowering prices so that that company doesn't get put out of business by their competition who DOES outsource their labor to India and gives the American people what they *REALLY* want...

        Cheaper shit.
    • by Kevin DeGraaf (220791) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:14PM (#6830247) Homepage
      I refuse to support people who want to screw me.

      I, for one, do emphatically support people who want to screw me.

  • by thoolie (442789) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:04PM (#6829816) Homepage
    Well, maybe not any job you want, but if you are willing to work, you will never be without a job. There are always going to be jobs for people who are willing to work. It may not be the job you want, but there will always be work. Sometimes you need more education, sometimes you need to make changes in your life, but you you are willing to do it, you will always have a job.

    Furthermore, if you are good at your job (and by good, i mean REAL GOOD), you will never have to worry about job security.

    And, as a friend once told me, "You can always make more money, but you can not make more time!"

    Just some food for thought!
  • Optimisim? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheKubrix (585297) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:05PM (#6829821) Homepage
    Ever noticed /. NEVER has a positive article about the IT industry?

    I guess bad news always sells more copies.
  • by CBNobi (141146) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:05PM (#6829825)
    So the American corporations (of doom) are sending jobs to foreign companies to save some cash. Considering Indian IT workers have a wage of $10,000 compared to the $60,000 of fresh out of college Americans, that adds up. The pay raises usually end up in the pockets of the business owners.

    But weren't the same American business owners, albeit in other industries, complaining about other countries making money by importing goods to the US and competing with the traditional businesses? Isn't that what the entire anti-dumping, WTO policies are about?

    There was a mainstream article on Time magazine entitled Where the Good Jobs Are Going [time.com]. (Premium, pay article) which you might want to take a look at if you have access to it.
  • by LamerX (164968) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:09PM (#6829850) Journal
    Yeah well they are gonna pay once they realize that nobody in the USA has any jobs because they've all been moved overseas. Once nobody has any jobs, they won't be able to afford to buy anybodys products. Then when nobody buys the products, the companies begin to fold. Don't they see how this works. Its simple logic that says when jobs go away, people can't afford stuff, when they can't afford stuff, they don't buy stuff, then the companies fold. SIMPLE ECONOMICS. All of these companies need to start to realize that they are only hurting themselves in the long run.
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:21PM (#6829926) Homepage Journal
      Well, of course ultimately the idea is that the high-paying jobs that go overseas -- high-paying by the standards of the countries they're going to, in any case -- will boost those countries' economies enough that they'll be able to buy our stuff. And long-term, it's reasonable to believe that this is so. Free trade, overall, tends to be good for everyone engaging in it. The problem is that in the short term, or even the medium term, there's a whole lot of chaos involved in the process, and a lot of people suffer from it. Notice that the people making the decisions that lead to this chaos hardly ever suffer themselves.

      I have mixed feelings about this. I work in IT, fortunately for a company that is spectacularly unlikely to outsource anything any time soon. (Er, unless I stop wasting time on /. and get back to work, that is. <g>) I know a hell of a lot of people, less lucky than I, who are out of work because of foreign competition. And yet I also believe that economic growth in the Third World is the best thing that could possibly happen for the Earth as a whole, and I am well aware that the export of IT jobs is a major step toward that goal.
      • will boost those countries' economies enough that they'll be able to buy our stuff. And long-term, it's reasonable to believe that this is so.

        This is a slippery slope. Long term $1 invested in India may never result in $1 in purchases of US goods. Over the long term that $1 declines in purchasing power, so just to keep the status quo that $1 would have to translate into more than $1 of US goods purchased. But India isn't performing this work with the idea of maintaining the state of their economy. The
    • The trick is, your scenario needs to play out. The economy either needs to recover, or else it needs to get A LOT WORSE very quickly.

      The more likely outcome is some equilibrium where the have's can live life while marginalizing the have-not's, and convince themselves that the have-not's are responsible for their own predicament.

      Much like the status quo today, but with a slightly different distribution of wealth.

      If you want CHANGE, you'd better hope for a scenario where even the HAVE's are pissed off. B
  • Wonderful (Score:3, Funny)

    by the Man in Black (102634) <jasonrashaadNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:10PM (#6829851) Homepage
    So, not only am I competing with hundreds of other unemployed IT workers for every job from sysadmin to help desk, I have to factor in companies saying "Well, we can just outsource this position. Much cheaper". This is doing nothing for my positivity.

    14 weeks of unemployment left. *sigh*
  • by holzp (87423) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:12PM (#6829862)
    First of all, I want to point out that American programmers and other IT people were outstandingly unsympathetic when factory workers' jobs started going overseas 30 or 40 years ago

    Yeah those 7 guys were real assholes.
  • by agurkan (523320) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:12PM (#6829864) Homepage
    From the article:
    In the end, like it or not, we here in the U.S. are going to have to learn how to deal with a truly worldwide IT economy.
    The only way to deal with any kind of worldwide economy, not only IT, is international unions and solidarity. This is big corporations using one country's workforce again the other. As pointed out near the beginning of the article, this is a lot similar to German workers losing jobs to Americans who lost jobs to Mexicans. This would be prevented if there was an international labor standard. Well, there is, but it is not enforcable unfortunately.
    Until international unions can be formed, we need to work to pass laws to prevent this abuse of workers, IT or any other field. However in US it is a far dream since there is no labor party. I believe US is the only industrialized society without a labor party.
    Happy Labor Day! :-)
  • Exporting of Jobs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daviddennis (10926) <david@amazing.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:14PM (#6829881) Homepage
    I'm not sure why anyone would want to hire Americans, since our cost of living has shot way beyond anything like a reasonable level. You give someone a $100k salary, and in California he can pretty much just make ends meet and maybe buy a few gadgets.

    I'm actually thinking it might be a good idea to move offshore myself. I'd earn less, but I might earn more when adjusted to the cost of living in, say, the Philippines or Brazil.

    I'd still earn a lot more than the typical offshore worker due to excellent English skills. All I would need to do is learn how to communicate with them and I'd be in demand in the same way the Los Angeles auto mechanic head is. He typically gives instructions to the hispanics who do the real work. No different from my scenerio.

    True, the infrastructure isn't there, but if enough of us go, it's going to improve over time. The first mover keeps the low cost of living, and in fact benefits from inevitable increases in costs. For instance, if I buy a house today, it will go up in value if more come.

    SF guru Robert Heinlein always said that we have a choice of staying fat and happy in our own spaces, or going to explore the unknown. He said the fat and happy places would decline, and eventually get swallowed up by more competitive ones. I think we're seeing that happen right now, in our own lifetimes. There's no space travel, true, but international travel is every bit as mysterious to the average guy.

    Maybe it's about time to realize that unfortunately, America isn't what it's cracked up to be anymore. We've gotten too flabby and expensive for our own good. That spells problems, yes, but it also spells opportunity for those who dare to take it.

    D
    • by demonbug (309515) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:30PM (#6829985) Journal
      I'm not sure why anyone would want to hire Americans, since our cost of living has shot way beyond anything like a reasonable level. You give someone a $100k salary, and in California he can pretty much just make ends meet and maybe buy a few gadgets.


      Okay, this is just gross overstatement. Even in high-cost areas around S.F. and San Jose, 100K is plenty for a comfortable living. Sure, it will be tough to afford that new house, but thats how it is for everyone. Throughout the vast majority of California, you could live very comfortably on 100K. Anyone who would even think about complaining that a hundred thousand a year is a bare minimum to survive on, even in the most expensive state in the union, needs some serious lessons in monetary responsibility. I have lived in California all my life, and I know practically no one that makes even close to a hundred grand, yet most of them live quite happily with houses and kids and cars and everything.
      Now, cut that number in half, and you might be correct. But you can live comfortably in any city in California for a hundred grand a year.

    • by antic (29198) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:56PM (#6830135)

      Yeh! He's arrogant and even though everyone wants his products, they're too expensive!

      I'm all for the exporting of Jobs too!

      Oh... *jobs*...
      • Re:Exporting of Jobs (Score:3, Interesting)

        by daviddennis (10926)
        Funny coincidence: I just got the boss to buy me a boatload of Apple gear.

        Our cute buxom office assistant takes any excuse to visit my office and hug the new PowerMac G4. Says it's the coolest thing she's ever seen.

        How did I sell the Apple gear to this tragically Windows-based company?

        Security. I figure it will be a lot easier to keep up with the patch joneses with MacOS X server than Linux or Windows. I sold that to the boss and now I have the gadgets.

        Not bad. Now I just have to get them to work.

        I
    • Where You Move... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blunte (183182)
      You don't have to move outside the US to vastly improve your cost of living.

      Try getting out of Cali for starters. There are many states with thriving IT markets that are below the average cost of living for the US.

      Using California as an example is really a mistake. Cali is not the norm.

    • Hear Hear (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mnmn (145599) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:17PM (#6830265) Homepage
      People in North America are really losing jobs to the same people to whom they sold all those products from the 60s onwards. All the computers that students in India and China own have Intel chips, are mostly made in western countries by western-owned companies and designed by insanely paid fat and happy engineers. Natural law dictates that you cannot expect them all to send you a steady stream of income buying American copies of Windows(r), processors, washing machines, cars, airplanes, routers and telecommunication equipment, Levi Jeans and a connection to the Internet Backbone (and IP address space). After a while of selling North Americans raw products in exchange of these goods, they will start manufacturing and designing it themselves.

      During the tech boom and export years, noone complained. Funny how everyone refers to 2000-2003 as the 'economic downturn' years while the 1990-1999 years were 'normal'. How about 1998 being a 'boom' year while 2001 is 'normal'? Add the IT market of Asian, Europe, Africa etc to average it out and you'll see 1998 was no normal year for the industry at all. Just as water tends to flow to the lowest potential level, so will the economy of the well-to-do countries.

      IT is far from over in North America and not every position can be outsourced. Can an average-sized manufacturing company have its Network Admin located in Indonesia? Software development will be hit hard, but newer markets and applications of software will also open up all over the globe, and specialized software developers here will get the boost.

      To be an optimist about the issue, just imagine the number of Linux and BSD developers multiplied by 20.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:44PM (#6830426)
      More true than most would like to admit. Those Indian programmers aren't "underpaid", as the original article has it. Just because you are paid less than an American programmer doesn't make you "underpaid". The cost of living in India is far lower than here. And programming is a highly-sought-after profession in Indian. Those $2k/month programmers make quite a bit of money by their own standards, and are viewed enviously. They're hardly downtrodden, exploited, sweatshop slaves.

      Opening up a software shop is also fairly smart from their business perspective. What do you do if you have lots of smart people but relatively little capital? That's right, the low startup investment for information tech, as opposed to steel plants or robotic automobile factories.

      It's a self-correcting problem. The influx of money will drive up the Indian standard of living, and thus raise costs. Compare with Japan, for example, where now it's even more expensive to live than California.
    • You make good points about cost effectiveness but one of your paragraphs made me laugh:

      I'd still earn a lot more than the typical offshore worker due to excellent English skills. All I would need to do is learn how to communicate with them and I'd be in demand in the same way the Los Angeles auto mechanic head is. He typically gives instructions to the hispanics who do the real work. No different from my scenerio.

      English is easy. If excellent "English skills" bought you anything, Indian English maj

      • by daviddennis (10926) <david@amazing.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:34PM (#6830934) Homepage
        I don't doubt the ability of the Indian programmers, and nothing in what I wrote was meant to question that.

        However, I happened to have a problem with a Netgear router, and I was transferred to a bunch of thick-accented tech support people who were fairly obviously in India. What was clear after talking to them is that it was very hard to be understood, and I think it would be even worse if I had to communicate to them about a difficult software project.

        So a firm of Indians with expat Americans capable of bridging the gap between the two cultures seems like a pretty good idea.

        You would pay me - or someone like me - in India (or whatever other country this was done in) for doing the communication, which is much easier face to face.

        It's not the Indian programmers who would need me (although they'd welcome getting the business). It would be the American side of things that would find my services useful.

        D
    • by Leers (159585) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:50PM (#6830759)
      I'm actually thinking it might be a good idea to move offshore myself.

      I too was thinking about building a floating platform off the cost. The rent would be cheap and I could commute to san jose by speed boat. Oh wait, thats a stupid idea.
  • by ElGuapoGolf (600734) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:19PM (#6829914) Homepage
    I have some experience with this. My last company laid most of their programmers off and outsourced the work overseas. In their case it worked since they were essentially an ad agency and all of the websites we did were pretty much "done" by time it came to code them (graphics and manuscripts just handed over).

    Now I'm doing j2ee programming (I wasn't always a web monkey) for a different company, mostly financial applications. There is a lot of interaction with the business people, and requirements are quite often fluid. I doubt the business and sales people are going to want to come into work at 1am to conference call over to India to hash out the latest requirements.

    Point is, some jobs are more likely to be shipped overseas than others. The pay scales of these jobs are going to fall in line with other white collar jobs (except the criminally underpaid teachers). It's just something we need to accept and move on with.
    • Even if Indian companies are willing to work US Hours, which they may well be, it still doesn't matter. I have seen over the years that nothing beats the productivity of a handful of people in a room with a mixture of technical and managerial folk. You don't need teams of hundreds or even ten developers to produce some amazing software that has huge impact on a business.

      2nd tier support and the like can be moved off, but companies that move core business development to any but a handful of the most trust
  • by Doctor Sbaitso (605467) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:21PM (#6829929) Journal
    So let me get this straight: American IT workers are being replaced by Indians. At the same time, they are being replaced by humanoid robots [slashdot.org].

    I'm sure glad I decided to become an Indian robot designer instead of a fireman!
  • Context (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tpenta (197089) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:21PM (#6829930) Homepage
    I know I am going to get flamed by the "Keep jobs in America" folks, but the argument shown is very one sided.

    There is the outcry about the Indian programmers being underpaid. What is left out of the equation is how the pay fits in with the standard of living where the employee lives.

    Isn't it only good business and responsible to shareholders that companies look for the best return on the dollar spent?

    The company that I work for has employees all over the world. I work in Australia. I know that I am paid less than my counterparts in the US. However, I also know that my cost of living is an awful lot lower than, say, California.

    That said, going to cheaper countries must be balanced with getting the appropriate skill sets. There is nothing worse than dealing with someone who does not have the skill sets that you require them to have as a basic part of their job.

    Tp.
    • Re:Context (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trejus (87937)

      Indian programmers are not underpaid. If anything, they are overpaid compared to their peers in their country. If you can get 3 Indian programmers for the price of one American one, then each Indian programmer will make 20,000 which 900,000 rupees a year.

      However, the cost of living comparision is more like 1/10 and not 1/50. But that still means that the "underpaid" Indian, is making $90,000 in "real" wages, which is 50% higher than his "spoiled" american counterpart. Even a 1 American, to 5 Indians is

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:25PM (#6829960)
    The Unstoppable Shift of IT Jobs Overseas

    I have nothing to fear from overseas labor. Why? Someone in India can't fix the printer. They can't install antivirus software on someone's system. They can't set up the phone+new PC for a new employee. They can't head over to the hosting center and install that new rackmount server. They don't form a working relationship with their coworkers that makes assisting them and understanding their problems easier.

    Further, they're not going to speak English very well(or they'll have such a thick accent, they might as well be speaking Martian), and it's going to be very expensive to communicate with them(and most upper management people don't consider "only via email" to be an acceptable communications medium, rightly so- it's damn tedious sometimes). Not to mention the time difference is a royal PITA. Companies are drastically slashing policies on telecommuting employees- remote just doesn't work. You've gotta be there for the over-the-cube-wall conversations, the overheard tidbits of information that contribute to overall 'corporate knowledge', the meetings...

    You know what? While developers were making 2x, 3x my salary during the internet boom(and didn't have to deal with emergencies, late night pages, etc), I didn't hear any complaints from 'em. Now, they'll all finding they're replaceable and their salaries are dropping- while sysadmins, network engineers and internal support staff are doing a far better job of holding onto employment because their jobs require physical presence. I have zero sympathy for the programmers- maybe those engineers should have actually saved their money instead of spending it on Porsche Boxsters, the latest PDAs/phones, and expensive clothes. In my experience, the only people who were worse about spending habits were the execs, but the difference is, the execs are still getting paid insane salaries.

    Hey, maybe we should outsource executives :-)

    • by fat_hot (226324)
      Further, they're not going to speak English very well (or they'll have such a thick accent, they might as well be speaking Martian)
      Not so. Many Indians have excellent English, and some have even learned to speak American.
  • Good for India. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eminor (455350) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:26PM (#6829966)
    It's good see that there is a better future for the young people in India. There are a lot of really bright young people there. They are paid well in terms of their own economy.

    It somebody else's turn to have an economic growth period. An american is no more important than an Indian.
  • by dreadlord76 (562584) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:30PM (#6829986)
    The software industry we know in this country will soon go the way of the dodo bird. Just like Textile, Steel, any sort of plastic manufacturing.... As more companies move their development offshore, there will be less jobs for entry level developers. Well, no entry level jobs means that in about 5 years, there will be no senior level developers in this country. Heck, all the main players thinks 5 years experiences makes a senior engineer, right? Since there aren't sufficient senior engineers here, it's time to rely on all foreign talent for the devleopment. Besides, the architect really needs to communicate with his team anyway, and in the same timezone. Soon, all development jobs are offshore. There will still be IT or admin jobs here, as those requires some warm bodies in the building. But true development will be all gone. Oh, the small consulting companies, the few experts with highly technical domain knowledges, they will have a paycheck. But the developer that can jump in anywhere and help out would not have a place. There will be no big software companies that has a big building with whiteboard walls. This is already becoming true, as more and more jobs openings expect exact fit in terms of domain knowledge. It's a matter of time before a big chunk of development for CA, Oracle, and Microsoft and others like them will be off shore. I suspect Microsoft won't shrink much, but the growth wouldn't be here anymore. I have a 40 year old, very senior engineering fried working on his Law degree. Most of us will need to think like him soon. If you read this Mike T., keep going!
  • Wrong again! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by InfinityWpi (175421) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:33PM (#6830002)
    Once more, I find myself educating those who should not need it... IT is more than just programming, people! Yes, programming jobs are going overseas. Phone support is going overseas. But in-your-office-today support? That's not going anywhere.
  • Underpaid? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by darkpurpleblob (180550) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:39PM (#6830035)
    The spectre in the back of many of our minds is that in a few years we may be replaced by an underpaid programmer in India.

    Are they really underpaid? By whose standards? By Indian standards they may be paid quite well. I do software development here in New Zealand, and think I'm probably underpaid compared to my American counterparts, but by New Zealand standards I'm paid well.

  • Amen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by leviramsey (248057) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:42PM (#6830056) Journal

    [This is primarily directed at those who claim to be libertarians and then bitch about H1B's or offshore IT work.]

    Quit your whining. This is a good thing people and it's an example of what makes capitalism great.

    Read up on Joseph Schumpeter [newschool.edu], arguably the most brilliant economist to come out of Austria. One's inability to see that the move of IT labor offshore is a good thing is largely due to a failure of most people to understand Schumpeter.

    Schumpeter's primary focus was on capitalism as a dynamic system. It continually evolves through creative destruction. There are countless examples of this phenomenon.

    A 120 years ago, most Americans were living on farms. With little mechanization, hard manual labor was the order of the day. As mechanization began to become more prevalent, thousands upon thousands of farm workers were surplus to requirements. Doom and gloom predictions that the move from an agricultural economy to a non-agricultural economy would lead to the collapse of America were common. Politicians ran on platforms aiming to keep the family farms solvent and prevent greater mechanization (for instance by taxing production of goods that could be used for farm mechanization).

    However, mechanization and consolidation took place in the agricultural business. Today, less than 3% of Americans are farmers, and there are far fewer farmers today than there were then. If static economic analysis, from the perspective of the past, was used to look at the economy today (or during the boom years of the late 1990's), the only conclusion would be that the US was in a total depression, because the vast majority of the old farm jobs were gone.

    So why wasn't it the case that the US went on to enjoy even better economic times than in the late-19th century? Why isn't there 90% unemployment (since from the 19th century perspective, 90% of the jobs that existed then are gone today)?

    What no one saw was that freeing up the most important capital, human labor, from inefficient application to the task of growing food for other purposes. What those who looked at the farms failing and saw disaster were missing was that now the farmer was able to go to the city and be basically as well off working in a factory, and that the farmer's children would go on to become doctors or lawyers or engineers or skilled laborers. Indeed, the industrialization could not have happened without the farm failures.

    For a more recent example, look at the state of heavy industry over the last 30 years. In the 1950's, 50% of Americans worked in industrial occupations, creating physical products. Nowadays, it's less than 20% (IIRC). You would expect there to be massive (>30%) unemployment, wouldn't you?

    But there's not 30% unemployment. The children of factory workers went to college and became clerks or salesmen or scientists. Think about what your grandparents did for a living. With few exceptions (I'm one of them; my grandmother was one of the early programmers of ENIAC-type machines), they weren't computer scientists, sysadmins, or electrical engineers. They were probably factory workers, or day laborers, or housewives, or maybe a clerk at some large industrial concern.

    By freeing up human capital from making cars and clothing and other labor intensive tasks, financial services, creative services, IT itself could be spawned.

    IT arose out of the collapse of an old economic model; it will collapse as a major player. It is inevitable. In 20 years, the jobs held by the readers of this site will have demand levels at a fraction of what they were before. In a century, we'll be looked at as the farmers; while there will still be demand for the tasks we perform, it will be nowhere near what it is today (and nowhere near what it was a few years ago).

    The core of what I'm saying is that we don't know what will come next (though it is most likely happening below our noses). T

    • Re:Amen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Galvatron (115029) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:37PM (#6830379)
      One brief point I would make: in the process of creative destruction, there are usually winners and losers. Just because the USA is better off as a whole as a result of our move away from agriculture, doesn't mean there weren't plenty of agricultural workers who were unable or unwilling to find another job, and were left destitute. Hell, you can still see this to some degree in rural areas. My girlfriend goes to Oberlin College, in the tiny town of Oberlin, OH. The people there are unbelievably poor, the stores are more likely to have a food stamp machine than a credit card machine. That's what leads to this resistance to change. Even though your neighbor might be able to make more money working in biotech, you might make less money because you don't have any other skills.

      That said, I still support free trade, I don't think it's right to make society as a whole suffer to enrich a few IT professionals with outdated skills.

    • Re:Amen (Score:4, Interesting)

      by HiThere (15173) * <charleshixsn@NOSPAM.earthlink.net> on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:58PM (#6830489)
      OK. I consider myself a libertarian. And I consder H1Bs to be a very bad thing. I also consider the Bracero program to be very bad. (That's the same thing, only for farm laborers.) Both are the government not even being willing to abide by the rules that it has declared everyone must abide by.

      These are special favors for specially choosen industries. They aren't for the benefit of the populace, but for the benefit of corporations. I.e., fictional entities that are allowed to exist because otherwise we can't make the laws do what we want. (Liability in this case.)

      Do you really see it as unreasonable for a libertarian to be upset because the government is playing favorites with the rich and powerful? I know that many Libertarians find that quite reasonable, but I never claimed to be one of them. And I barely consider them libertarian at all. Or only in comparison to the Republicrats.

      Now I suppose I should admit to a few false colors. I called myself a libertarian, and to an extent I am. But I'm more accurately described as an anti-centralist. I am opposed to centralizations of power. Economic power, coercive power, etc. This doesn't blind me to the fact that when you are being oppressed by one centralization of power it can be quite attractive to try to create another. I feel that this is almost always a mistake. The FSF makes me nervous when it wants to own the copyrights on the entire GNU toolset. I understand their reasoning, and the GPL makes it "fairly safe", but it's the creation of a centralization of power.

      So. "Capitalism" I don't find some holy endeavor. It is subject to all the misuses of any other source of power. In particular it is subject to centralizations (called partial or complete monopolies). And I don't worship capitalism. I admire it's efficiencies, and I deplore it's vilenesses. And it has both. But I fear it's centralizations. Now to be fair, those centralizations are largely a construction of the way the government has shaped the laws to benefit large concentrations of power. This goes back at least as far as the 1850's when ther was a lawsuit "The Union Pacific Railroad vs. (the state of california? probably not). That was where the incredibly vile and stupid decision was made that a corporation was legally a person, and entitled to the rights of a person. It's been downhill since then.
    • Act of faith (Score:3, Interesting)

      by metamatic (202216)
      So basically, you have faith that some unknown new industry will come along, and everyone will get jobs in that, once all the current jobs are gone? And you have this faith in spite of no evidence, based purely on the fact that in the past it's happened a few times?

      Well, you've certainly adopted capitalism as religion.
    • Re:Amen (Score:3, Insightful)

      Urbanization has hurt our ability to adapt to 'creative destruction'. When the Great Depression hit, many people survived by growing their own food. Sons who had moved off the farms and to the cities went back home, just like they did during the economic downturns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Now, many fewer have that option.

      If the current market for labor doesn't demonstrate how capitalists reap huge benefits by exploiting a reserve army of the unemployed, now worldwide, I don't know w

    • Re:Amen (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rsheridan6 (600425)

      The children of factory workers went to college and became clerks or salesmen or scientists.

      And now, we're going away from having near-universal access to higher education to higher and higher tuitions, with less and less financial aid available, for worse and worse universities. The "creative" part of creative destruction comes from investing in R&D and in human capital (training and education); most of that happens in universities. And we're cutting higher education to the bone. Madness.

      At this r

  • Bullcrap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sean Clifford (322444) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:07PM (#6830540) Journal
    Bullcrap. The shift of jobs overseas is hardly a good thing, whether you call it "free trade" or some pseudo-Darwinistic economic evolution. You want good examples of what these corps do overseas?

    Look at Nike. Indonesian factory workers - mostly girls - work under conditions and hours typical of late 19th century American garment factories. Environmental destruction runs rampant.

    Take a look at Coca Cola's operations in South America - their hiring of death squads for "security" and assassination of labor organizers.

    Remember Union Carbide?

    This "free trade" business has led to US corporations moving offshore to the Caymans and elsewhere so they can avoid paying corporate income taxes. Taxes that you, me, and Joe Sixpack get burdened with - even as we move down the economic ladder.

    Fortunately I still have my job - and yes, for a while it looked like my work was going to be outsourced to India. But the folks working in New Delhi don't understand the ins and outs of our operations or the systems we integrate with: I do. As a "knowledge transfer" - forget it, won't happen.

    Folks seem to have this silly notion that what's good for the corporate economy is good for the citizens. That ain't necessarily so, nor do I think that "cheaper is better" is necessarily good for the corporations either, not in the long run. If the middle class continues to shrink who the crap is going to buy the stuff produced by cheap labor?
  • by QuackQuack (550293) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:13PM (#6830558) Journal

    Business 2.0 magazine is running an interesting article called The Coming Job Boom [business2.com]. Basically, because the baby boomers are getting ready to start retiring, and there just aren't enough workers to replace them, there is impending skills shortage similar that what occured in 1999/2000 just around the corner. According to the article, the article states that this will occur even if the US GDP growth rate is only 3% annually. (Latest reading is 3.1% BTW). Overseas outsourcing, importing workers, and people delaying retirement will not be enough to prevent this crunch. It claims the biggest shortages will be in tech, and has all kinds of data to back up these claims. We should start seeing this around 2005.

    This is not the first article I've seen that makes this claim. Its just that this kind of article is not in vogue in the current environment. You have to dig through all kinds of doom and gloom about jobs lost overseas to find them.

  • by benwaggoner (513209) <ben.waggoner@mic ... m ['sof' in gap]> on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:19PM (#6830589) Homepage
    There seems to be a knee-jerk reaction that exporting jobs will somehow hurt US productivity in the long run, while in fact it's a reflection of our high productivity. When I'm not a codec nerd, I'm an economics nerd, so let me spread the Ricardian gospel a bit.

    Our GDP is hugely higher per capita than India. This is because we are hugely more productive per capita than India overall. Because we are so productive we have a much higher standard of living, and much higher wages. As our economy grows, and our GDP per capita goes up, so do our wages.

    Eventually, wages get so high, that it doesn't pay to hire folks in the US to do them. So they get exported. This won't cause a lack of productivity - the only reason we can afford the outsourcing is because of our aggregate productivity in the first place.

    Let's imagine the long-term scenario folks here are implying. First, all the high-paying jobs get sent to India, since Indians will work for less. Second, US workers will go broke. Why would it work that way? Obviously, as jobs go to India, wages will go up in the sectors we're looking at. And there is a limited population in India who has the secondary education good enough to go to any kind of engineering school - clearly it's a much smaller pool to draw on than the US has, even though our population is much less. This is because we're very productive, and can afford lots of really school schools, especially at the college level. Over time Indian wages will rise and US wages for those who do thing that could be outsourced to India will fall so that the total cost of each will be roughly equal. The US wages will likely be quite a bit higher still in that case, since having someone local has definite advantages, plus the reduced cultural barrier, etcetera. And the US economy is doing great, since we're able to get our software cheaper, and we've freed up a lot of smart people from having to do something that we can outsource. It's not like all those replaced IT folks go straight into retirement or anything. Lots of them will start new business, get new jobs, and so on. And the folks who keep their jobs are going to be trying like crazy to stay productive in order to justify why they're worth as much as six guys in India. That's great - their productivity is going up, and everyone is happy. These transitions can be painful, but it's not like the US has huge sustained underemployment (although we're in a cyclical slump right now, largely due to an economically incompetent administration).

    Now, let's say that India makes so much money on outsourcing (which they won't) that they can really upgrade their schools, and approach the US in productivity. If so, great! We've got a big, rich, friendly democracy in a part of the world where we can use all the help we can get. And as Indian productivity rises, so will their wages, so that's less downward pressure on US wages.

    Anyway, the thing to remember is that we're rich because we're productive, which means that those parts of the economy with lower relative productivity compared to the rest of the world are going to get outsourced. This won't make us poor, since the outsourcing is only a reflection of our wealth and productivity in the first place. It's a self-balancing system. So, if the problem in the long term is places like China and India grow productivity faster than we do (which is likely for the next few decades), than the relative gap between their our our wealth will decrease. No problem - I just want to be rich, I don't want India to be poor!

    Also, if you look at the history of South Korea, Japan, and other nations that industrialized rapidly on US lines, we're still more productive per capital than they are. They get close, but the US always seems to pull ahead in the end, for a variety of reasons (lots of bright, motivated immigrants, low barriers to start new companies are big ones).

    So, folks, don't define what you do so narrowly that the only career you can imagine is something that's outsourced. Programming to a spec? Not a good long term move. Being able to right good, business-driven specs? Good move.
  • by Slime-dogg (120473) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:25PM (#6830615) Journal

    How amusing it is that an article about jobs moving overseas is posted by a guy named "514x0r?" It seems that the reason is given before the actual problem is stated...

  • by Adam J. Richter (17693) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:44PM (#6830718)
    This is not flamebait. I'm serious.

    Workers willing to work a given job is a non-decreasing function of the pay rate. For example, the number of people willing to work at recycling computers for $20 per computer is greater than or equal to the number of people willing to do the same for $10 per computer.

    The number of jobs that potential employers offer is a non-increasing function of the pay rate. For example, the number of people who would consider it the very most profitable investment of their money to create a computer recycling business if they have to pay their workers $20 per computer is less than or equal to the number of people would make make similar investments if the labor cost were $10 per computer.

    As an introductory textbook in economics will show you (at least mine did), these curves can be graphed as a big "X". The number of people actually working when the prevailing wage is at a certain point, is the minimum of the two curves, the lower legs of the "X".

    Unless there is something like a minimum wage law, competition among workers and competition among employers causes wages to move toward where the lines cross. On this graph, this is also where the number of people employed is maximized. This does not necessarily mean that total wages are maximized at this wage rate, but it does mean that total production is, and money is basically a way to distribute what is produced. So, it seems to me that transfer payments would create a lot less unemployment than the minimum wage, as long as the transfer payments are structured so that people still make substantially more money if they take a higher paying job.

    IT people typically do not work at wages near the US minimum wage, but we pay for it when we pay triple the cost of food, clothing, and housing that people pay for the same quality goods in China.

    I believe that the people in our ghettos also pay for the minimum wage. I think their unemployment is largely because it is illegal to locate a business that would profit from the fact that some people are willing to work for less than the current US minimum wage in the US. A lot of "working class" Americans also miss out on the opportuntity to create little businesses, which is so much easier than in the United States when there is no minimum wage. I am talking about businesses such as virtually all forms of recycling, food delivery, food kiosks, taxi service, and even small factories.

    If the US eliminated its minimium wage, I would not expect unskilled labor prices to fall to quite the level of third world countries, because our workforce is more skilled, so perhaps we'd see a drop of only a factor of two for completely unskilled labor. Also, currently employed minimum wage people might be effected less than those applying for new jobs because our current minimum wage employers at least have had the luxury of picking the best employees available.

    What I would expect is that a lot of currently unemployed people would gradually become employed in newly created jobs doing things that would increase the buying power of our dollars. So, I think that if we were to eliminate the minimum wage, it would allow US IT people to achieve a higher standard of living and compete more effectively in the global market.

  • We're Not Dead, Yet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Murdoch (102085) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:46PM (#6830736) Homepage Journal

    Hi!

    Want to scare a lot of people? Or want to get a zillion page views to boost your website advertising sales? Post a red-meat story on SlashDot about IT jobs getting outsourced to India, and watch the fur fly. Toss in a statistic or two (in this article there were no statistics at all) about how EDS has thousands of jobs in India, and let's not forget about that tape recording of IBM's HR guy saying that they should be moving jobs offshore, too. By golly, we'll all be sitting on the curb selling pencils by Christmas!

    Or maybe not...
    Believe it or not, those offshore code factories aren't much of a job threat to American programmers. Companies have been trying to move programming work offshore for a good ten years--and yes, some programming work has moved offshore. But most of the offshore outsourcing that's been done is either code maintenance (hiring the cheapest person possible to maintain legacy COBOL applications that refuse to die) or help desk support jobs. Neither of those categories poses a big threat to an experienced C++ programmer with good communication skills and a good resume.

    What is a threat to American programmers' jobs is a simple economic reality: a lot of us had high-paying jobs in the 1990s because of two different bubbles. The dot-com bubble and the Year 2000 "crisis" had the delightful effect of creating an unbelievable demand for programmers--with or without experience. When Congress passed "emergency" legislation to permit corporations to expense Y2K related expenditures (instead of depreciating them as usual) I joked to a friend that the bill should be called the "Full Employment for Programmers Act."

    Those were terrific times. But they're gone.

    The hard and simple reality:
    The bubbles have burst. All of the Y2K coding has been done. Every Fortune 500 corporation that simply HAD TO HAVE A WEB PRESENCE BY THE NEXT STOCKHOLDERS MEETING is now hoping that the auditors won't compare the money spent on that Enterprise Web Portal with the amount of business generated by it. The insane levels of demand for programmers--and the insane pay rates that went with it--are gone.

    That doesn't mean we're all going to lose our jobs to people in the Indian subcontinent. But it does mean that we have to adjust our expectations of the labor market to something a bit closer to reality. If we were newspaper reporters or insurance claims analysts or high school teachers or mechanical engineers we'd face certain realities: you have to look for a job; employers want experience before they'll hire you; sometimes you can't find a job in your area--so you may have to consider moving; and sometimes, well--sometimes you have to consider the possibility that you should look for another career. As information technology becomes a more mature business, a lot of those realities apply to us as well.

    Programming doesn't move offshore well
    It doesn't. Sure--if you're a SlashDot regular or devoted to a particular Open Source project, you can name talented programmers who live and work outside of the United States. Miguel de Icaza of Ximian [ximian.com], for instance, is an extremely capable programmer who lives in Mexico. Do I consider him a job threat? Not in the least--because programming is not as portable (at least not to India) as you might think.

    It's about communication
    Simply put, the essence of programming is communication. The vast bulk of programming jobs involve translating user requirements into functional computer code. And if you've been in the business more than, say, three weeks, you've no doubt learned that the customer's written requirements generally have little relationship to what the customer actually needs. Central to what we do is figuring out those little nuances of a customer's business that let us write an effective application--which inevitably involves asking questions the customer never even considered we'd ask.

    For example: I'm presently wor

  • IT moving offshore (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:47PM (#6830744)
    Globalization is going to be painful occasionally because of the disparate incomes in various parts of the world. It isn't just IT and manufacturing, it's all jobs - Intel has a marketing division in India, Boeing has a design center in Japan, and so on. If you aren't delivering some value that can't be offshored, you are vulnerable.

    In the IT industry that means you need to learn to be close to your customer - so they can't replace you with a coder in China.

    What is happening is simple - we used to talk about automation replacing manufacturing workers, and code writers being replaced by RAD tools. Maybe someday. But first we have to elevate the worth of human being worldwide so that their pay makes the cost of this automation economically valuable.

    Some people question the wisdom of globalization because of the painful changes it forces in an economy. That is not tenable long-term. The planet is shrinking and if we are going to avoid devastating wars and dislocations we must make the nations of the world so interdependent that there is no potential for gain in anything but full participation on a global society.

  • by Kevin S. Van Horn (29825) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:17PM (#6830862)
    > don't expect a great deal of
    > political support for laws to help keep
    > programming jobs in the U.S.

    I should damn well hope not. That is the solution of the coward and a thug -- "thug" because it involves using the threat of violence (all laws are ultimately enforced by men with guns) to take out the competition, and "coward" because those proposing such thuggish methods hide behind their proxies in the legislature and law enforcement.

    I have a wife and four kids and have been out of work for 2-1/2 months, but I'll clean toilets for a living before I'll stoop to threatening someone with violence to get a job.
  • by hxnwix (652290) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @12:25AM (#6831120) Journal
    Presently, the outsourcing rush is correcting an obvious market inefficiency; namely that for whatever reason, highly educated Indian labor is cheaper. A properly functioning economy redresses such imbalances rapidly: India's skilled workforce is finite and its value will increase with average quality of life, reaching parity with ours.

    Parity, however, is grossly distorted in this situation. Indian employees and firms do not pay the ~45% tax (spread over income, miscellaneous regulation, property, ad naseum) that their counterparts here and in Europe must. In effect, this aggregate taxation is an enormous tariff sponsoring foreign labor, and the otherwise natural equilibrium in compensation found at parity ought to rest in the vicinity of... 20% ->below- foreign levels.

    I do not mean to imply first world taxes are wasted by govt, but some combination of reducing the largely unconstitutional federal bloat and introducing tariff on outsourced production (correcting for minuscule Indian cost of living) raises job market parity to a bearable level.

    However, overriding protectionism (such as that Japan *still* favors) will certainly ruin this nation. After all, how will all our exported capital ever return as investment if the US and Europe appear content to maintain the status quo (0% GDP growth, in more obvious terms)? Long decades of trade deficit and wholesale hollowing out of domestic industry afford developed countries little flexibility defending what little real productivity they retain. Socialist policy and GDP shrinkage or free market and some painful hard work are the plausible remaining options.

    Suggestions that companies outsourcing their labor are self-interested offer no insight. Individual and corporate motivation to profit are the only reliable constants in a democratic, capitalist society.

    My thoughts seem grossly out of place as I read recent comments, but what the hey.
  • ROTFLMAO (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Mayor (6048) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @01:02AM (#6831268)
    This is really quite funny. I must extract this quote:

    But the chance of protectionism becoming law is nearly nil in the current U.S. political climate, and even if it did, the harm it might do -- by raising the U.S. sales prices of goods ranging from RAM to baby shoes -- might easily kill any economic gains from an increased number of U.S. manufacturing sector paychecks.

    So let me see if I understand this correctly...protectionism will make the problem worse? But it is a shame we're losing all of these jobs? Hahahaha.

    I remember hearing this same argument back in the 80s regarding the computer chip manufaturing industry (yes, not everyone that reads /. just started shaving). The argument is complete bullshit (excuse my language). I mean, what has happened with industries like the textile industry? Sure, we've lost lots of minimum wage jobs to Indonesia. But we've gained tons of jobs in sales, marketing, design, and distribution for textiles. And these aren't minimum wage jobs. The people employed in these industries consume further goods, leading to markets for Wal Mart cashiers making minimum wage (the same workers that used to work in the textile industry). Are we better off as a result? Well, it sure hurt during the transition. But the US as a whole is wealthier as a result. So are the workers in India. This is a classic "win-win" situation, so long as the people caught in the transition are not left to whither.

    Getting back to the computer hardware industry, it is quite true that much of the computer manufacturing industry has fled to the Far East. But guess who designed the latest Pentium M chip? My guess is that it was a team of American engineers. And I bet each one of those engineers made 10x as much as a computer hardware manufaturer would have made had those manufaturing jobs stayed here in the US. And I bet the goods consumed by these folks now employ the very people that would have been employed at the manufacturing facilities had they remained in the US. Does is suck for those displaced by the changing economy? Yes. Is the US economy better off as a result? I would claim so. [note: the downside to all of this is a greater separation of wealth between the folks that would have worked at the manufacturing facilities and those that design the chips...how we deal with the separation of wealth is a far greater problem than the flight of these manufacturing jobs to countries with lower wages]

    How many of you have worked with Indian computer software programming firms? I've worked with dozens during my tenure as a programmer. Care to guess the general quality of software design and engineering coming from these firms? Let's just say that I wouldn't mind having these firms implement something designed by my fellow lazy Americans, but my experience leads me to avoid having the design work being exported. [note2: I have had the best luck with the design coming from Russian firms...but have had other issues with their work that still leads me to chose American design over low-wage design any day of the week] What is the result? The low-wage jobs do and will flee to countries such as India. But the high-wage jobs, generally in design and engineering, will remain in the US. Fewer jobs, perhaps. But higher-wage jobs.

    Do I want my Nikes and underwear to be manufacturing in the US? I couldn't give a damn. Do I want the materials design for the space-age foam used in my Nikes to be developed in the US? Yes. These materials design jobs are high paying. The people working in a shoe manufacturing facility likely would be making minimum wage. The end result? Our economy continues its flight from manufacturing towards service-sector jobs such as design. And the low-wage workers in the US end up working in "trickle-down" jobs, such as McDonalds and Wal-Mart.

    Are there social issues regarding this separation of wealth? Yes. Very large ones. This is why I believe in social programs

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @01:29AM (#6831342) Journal
    For starters, what's with this statement they inserted in the middle of the whole thing:

    "Libertarian IT workers who watch their jobs go overseas should derive joy from geographic shifts in employment. Their "dog eat dog" creed requires them to be happy whenever the marketplace finds a way to pay workers less and increase business owners' profits."

    Did the author of the story suddenly feel a need to attack Libertarians or what?? That's, at best, a very inaccurate statement.

    Libertarians have no "dog eat dog" creed! If anything, it's more of a "live and let live" creed. Do whatever you wish, as long as you don't infringe on other's rights to do the same.

    As a self-proclaimed "Libertarian I.T. worker" myself, I can assure you, I'm not taking great joy in the marketplace constantly finding ways to pay workers less for their work. On the contrary, I'd simply like to see workers able to keep more of the money they're entitled to for their labor, rather than be forced to turn about 1/3rd. of it over in taxes.

    But I digress....

    On this I.T. outsourcing issue, I'm not sure if any of us really know yet how it will all pan out. I have a strong suspicion it will be a short-term "bad thing" that turns out to be a "good thing" in the long run. Why? Well, many 3rd. world countries are far behind the technology curve right now, but are trying hard to catch up. When enough of them earn some money doing I.T. (even if it is for the U.S. companies), it will help spur interest and growth of I.T. in their own countries. Eventually, that means they'll be needed locally, instead of only when they take U.S. jobs. (That also means new jobs might become available for U.S. workers willing to accept work overseas.)

    Part of the problem with this whole "global economy" thing is that U.S. citizens are still going into it with "tunnel vision". We're all about the "What's in it for me, today?" -- and tend to forget it may take some pain and suffering now, to "jump start" the economies of other countries, so we'll all be operating on a larger, more level playing field down the road.

    In the short term though, yeah - I don't think you can avoid some of the I.T. outsourcing. Much depends on how much human interaction is required from your job. Programmers generally don't need high levels of interaction. They're paid to bang out a product (code), and if foreigners code cheaper - that's the new "going rate" for the work.
  • by fwoomp (120468) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @02:28AM (#6831501)
    I've seen several articles in various places on the woes of the current job market and ways to deal with them, and I noticed that they are primarily written with a "hearing" audience in mind (a reasonable target audience, after all). Their advice on coping in today's job market often does not address the unique difficulties of being a Deaf IT professional who has been laid off.

    For several years, even as a Deaf person, I rarely had to look very hard to find a job, simply because my skills were in demand. Now that the tables have been turned around on all of us, an already bad job market is worse for me because I am Deaf. Many job postings state that excellent communication skills are required--which is fine and reasonable, except I feel that I am at a disadvantage and won't be considered a good prospect once they know that they can't just talk to me as easily as they can talk to most people.

    I do communicate quite well in one-on-one settings with minimal background noise. However, even if I get the interview and land the job, there is another concern: fast-paced, cutting-edge job environments do not encourage ideal communication settings. The norm is to get together in group meetings, which I find very difficult. Yes, I could get an interpreter, but these meetings are often called at the last minute (fast-paced environment, remember) and many interpreting agencies want a week's notice. Also, the lag time in the interpreting process prevents me from smoothly contributing to the discussion. In a previous job, I tried setting up an IRC server to allow people to talk online, but the other workers just didn't want to have online meetings. The isolation had very deep, harmful effects on me. This was a corporate setting, and I don't see how a Deaf person could survive there.

    I seem to remember that employers were more willing to work around these issues when the economy was better. When that changed, there was less and less tolerance for my needs (however substantial they were) as time went on. Now that I have been laid off, this is on my mind as I search for job opportunities. If I'm not someone who can communicate in a "typical" way, there are hundreds of other candidates with no communication issues who will appear more attractive for that reason. Furthermore, for the sake of my sanity, I do not want to get into another impossible corporate situation like my previous job.

    So, I am faced with couple of possibilities. One is to seek out a work environment where we can work out ways to communicate effectively and get fairly settled for pretty much the long term. I do feel that I would do well in a small-company environment, where I could easily get to know everyone. In the past, I have worked in such settings and they indeed proved to be better experiences. That kind of environment is hard to find nowadays, and the ones that I have come across don't seem to be hiring. Even so, this would be my preference, because my experience is that corporate settings just do not work for me. The same goes for consulting firms such as RHI (just to pick one example out of many) which would entail working out communication at the start of every new contract.

    The other possibility is to change my career. I'm not sure what kind to consider yet. Once upon a time, Computer Science (my degree major) and IT were considered very promising fields. Now, it is all a completely different ball game.

    Actually, my career is not completely uncertain. I became a Deaf preacher in the last few years, and this is becoming my primary focus. However, Deaf churches are usually not able to support a full-time pastor, so I expect to be bivocational when the Lord calls me to pastor a church. Thus, I still need to think and pray about what kind of work to pursue on the side.

    I also have a few Deaf friends in the IT field who are either laid off or see the ax falling anytime soon. I wonder what advice I could give them and other Deaf IT professionals (and myself, for that matter) on how to cope in today's job market?

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