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Editorial Programming The Almighty Buck IT Technology

The Unstoppable Shift of IT Jobs Overseas 1084

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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  • 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.

  • by slazlo ( 87565 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:23PM (#6829943) Homepage
    I have a friend who is a mangager at IBM and he was recently required to change his team makeup to be 70% from IBM India. He is bummed but there is nothing he can do to prevent the shift in manpower. I think this is a different world from the past and these jobs are not coming back. Unless you move into management, work for a small local firm, or try to go out on your own like my self 23 Pools [23pools.com] there is a good chance that your job may not be there in the future.
    What I don't understand is why the pricing of housing hasn't come down more and expect that to be the next bubble to burst.
  • No Free lunch (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dr Reducto ( 665121 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:26PM (#6829967) Journal
    I just read an article recently about Indian call-centers. There is massive turnover, because the employees *know* they are underpaid. They also don't like the job because they have to maintain Central Standard Time, instaed of the local time.

    As for foreign programmers, their code is often sub-par, needing extensive debugging, from what I hear.
  • 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!
  • by BigBadBri ( 595126 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:37PM (#6830016)
    and Apu in Mumbai answers the phone...

    This is why the callcentre staff all have pretend European names, and are given classes in the vernacular of whichever locale they deal with (at least in the best call centres).

    So long as Joe six-pack gets a fix, is he really going to give a monkeys?

    I can't see a technically well educated Indian being any worse than your average first line support guy anyway, and from my experience of Indian colleagues, they tend to be more tolerant of user-obnoxiousness, and better able to handle dickheads.

    Personally, I think it's a positive move - rather than shaving costs to the bone trying to supply minimum-wage phone support locally (which is difficult foir the company and unrewarding for the employee), it's better to pay a good market wage in a low wage, English-literate economy, and add value with operator training.

    Just my two pennworth.

  • 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.
  • 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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:43PM (#6830060)
    Another point - Joe Sixpack might not shed a tear for US IT jobs being shipped overseas, but he WILL get irate when he calls for support for his shiny new Dell, and Apu in Mumbai answers the phone... This is where the offshoring scheme is going to start getting sticky, when consumers start getting fed up with talking to someone in India whenever they call a helpdesk for a product they've purchased...

    Another sad part is, this is going to start rising animosity and zenophobia against Indians in general.....

    Funny you should mention that, there was a letter to the editor in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this morning complaining about how horrible the experience of dealing with Indian tech-support people is. There may have been a valid point somewhere in it, but the writer came off sounding like a racist ass.
  • by jmccay ( 70985 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:00PM (#6830156) Journal
    One small problem. YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT. This happened to the Textile industry, and now it is happening to the Technology industry. Currently, accounting jobs are also starting to move overseas, and companies don't bother to tell there customers these things.
    Call centers are also being sent overseas. They, call center's in India, are even teaching their employees to talk with various American accents, and the call center employees take a new American name for their job.
    Freedom means nothing if you can't support yourself and your family (if you have one). Businesses are sending jobs overseas to increase profits at the cost of American jobs. This won't stop with Tech jobs. All jobs that can be moved overseas all in the name of increased profits will be if nothing is done to stop it This is erasing the middle class! Without a middle class, most capitalistic economies will colapse! The middle class is the backbone of a capitalistic economy.
    You are completely missing the point. I think a country should protect the jobs of it's citizens. Why should a foriegner get a job over an American in America? I think h1-bs and l1s should be eliminated when there is high unemployment of American citizens in a given field. Why do companies need to bring in foriegn labor when there is existing American labor unemployed!!!
  • Re:Exporting of Jobs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by daviddennis ( 10926 ) <david@amazing.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:16PM (#6830253) Homepage
    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.

    Incidentally, if you're not desperate for SCSI drives, Apple actually beats its competitors on price by a nice margin.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:16PM (#6830255)
    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 trusted employees are going to run into a 10x delay in development/communication time and be eaten alive by more nimble competitors.

    Now a company operating out of India should be able to take some advantage of lower labor and good communication.
  • or (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:42PM (#6830415)
    maybe companies will just move their head offices offshore too...
  • Call to Unionize (Score:2, Interesting)

    by claud9999 ( 412067 ) <cknight-slashdot&accessoft,org> on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:52PM (#6830459) Homepage
    For many years I've heard repeated statements that IT workers are too valued and Unions are only for unskilled laborers. Now that the writing is on the wall, is anyone changing their minds?

    Offshoring/outsourcing is a key battle between workers and management and Unions are the only way you'll get a voice.

    I'm a Union member (for scientists and engineers) and I'd be happy to organize any IT shop in the Silicon Valley. All it takes is a vote of current company employees (non-managers) at one location. Check out ifpte.org for an appropriate Union organization and/or drop me an e-mail.

    If you don't organize, your job may be next!
  • 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.
  • by fat_hot ( 226324 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:12PM (#6830556)
    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.
  • 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 YllabianBitPipe ( 647462 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:27PM (#6830623)

    A lot of the fighting the Labor Unions did after the great depression, sadly, has been destroyed at tech companies. Tech workers are rarely unionized. We were told we'd be fairly compensated in other ways, namely, stock options. Now as we all know, the wool was largely pulled over our eyes. Many companies give their CEOs and execs options in the millions and the average worker would get tens of thousands. And guess what, a lot of those stock options are underwater, worthless, or not worth anything compared to what they once were.

    I mention options because they were used as compensation ... to say that "everyone was sharing ownership in the company" and "if the company improves, then the stock goes up and everyone benefits". They were made out to be this big equalizer of wealth. And unions were touted to be terrible for competition ... they would keep costs up and keep companies from being flexible. Instead of a guaranteed wage or job, options will solve everything.

    Bull shit.

    So in exchange for these "big equalizers of wealth" many people didn't notice when we were handed "at will" employee contracts, and when unions vanished. Who needed a union? If you got laid off you could always live off your stock options ...

    So now we have the situation we're in now, where tech workers still think unions are bad for competition, and the CEO's laugh all the way to the bank with their insider options.

  • by vudufixit ( 581911 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:31PM (#6830641)
    I'm in the business of to going to homes and busineses to fix computer problems. Many of the machines I work on are still within warranty Dells and Gateways. So why do people call me for help? Because they're frustrated with the first-level tech support, usually overseas. They're reading from troubleshooting scripts and not really diagnosing the problem. And when the user actually knows what the problem is, the tech will not listen, but instead will force them to go through every last step of troubleshooting. As the quality of vendor support declines, third-party techs such as myself will increasingly be called upon to fill the gap.
  • 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


    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

  • by Bull999999 ( 652264 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:05PM (#6830817) Journal
    Is that the best you can do? It's like me asking you why Chevy's are the best and you directing me to a Chevy website. The websites you've listed are left wing political websites. Where as the information I cited is a financial statement filed with SEC. Maybe you should have IRS audit MS since their financial statement shows that they owe over 2 BILLION in taxes (and this is from a public record) and you stated MS pays ZERO in taxes. And if IRS asks if you have proof, just point them to the websites that you've listed. I'm pretty sure that IRS will take your word for it as it's not like those web sites are biased. Maybe people like Michael Dell are rich because he founded his company with $1000 instead of spending that money on a gamining system/car/weed/beer. And that's why there's a wealth gap in America.
  • Act of faith (Score:3, Interesting)

    by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:07PM (#6830835) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 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.
  • Hope on the Horizon? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:24PM (#6830890)
    In Business 2.0, September 2003, there is an article discussing a coming job boom (sorry, I couldn't find an online version of the article).

    Basically the article is pointing out how the Baby Boomer generation is preparaing to retire within the next few years and this is going to great a massive labor shortage. The largest of these labor shortages will be in the IT field. Here's a paragraph (any typos are mine):

    The result is an unprecedented mismatch between the workforce and the demands of a growing high-tech economy. Projections by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the seven fastest-growing occupations this decade will all be in technology. Demand for applications software engineers and tech support specialists, for example, will double by 2010, according to the BLS. (See "The 10 Fastest-Growing Occupations," opposite page.) Even the seventh-ranked category, database administrators, is projected to grow by a stunning 66 percent. These high-demand tech fields will be the first to feel the labor crunch. By 2005, Carnevale says, "we'll start to see spot shortages all over the place." In some fields he predicts, employers will be reduced to filling desperate job shortages with unqualified workers. By the following decade, when the bulk of the baby boomers big their cubicles goodbye, a broad swath of corporate America will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for white-collar workers.

    The chart referenced is the same as found here [bls.gov], just without the pretty graphics.

    According to this article, there is hope on the horizon for us. Even if this hope is two years away.
  • Re:Bad? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by uradu ( 10768 ) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:31PM (#6830919)
    > coming to this country and competing for jobs in a fashion similar to today

    But that's the crux of the matter, these outsourced workers AREN'T coming to this country to compete for jobs. If they did, we would have much less of a problem, because they'd be competing on equal terms. But they're competing from OVER THERE, and they have the unfair advantage of MUCH lower living costs. This is not to blame the poor sods themselves, because I'd certainly do the same thing in their place. This is just the dirty side of globalization. I am all for the "spread the wealth" part of globalization, but that's not what is happening. Manufacturers (and now software companies) are going overseas to produce the (ostensibly) same product for pennies on the dollar, only to come back here and sell it at essentially the same price as before. Who are the loosers? Both the citizens that lost the jobs to overseas, and the overseas workers, who--while probably making more than they could otherwise--still usually can't even afford to buy the product they're producing. As far as global corporations are concerned, my view is that access to a lucrative market should also bring with it more responsibilities. If you want to sell into the highly profitable First World, you should provide more than the mere benefits of the product. Otherwise you can go and try to sell it back where you produced it and see how much profit you'd make there.

    My feeling is that the real backlash against globalization will come once large numbers of people realize just how many jobs are being lost to emerging countries. I always thought that globalization of trade has to occur in stages, sort of like the Eastern European countries are being trickled into the EU, a few at a time, and with staggered eonomic integration (ok, maybe the analogy isn't perfect, what with ten countries joining at once). Otherwise, if you open the floodgates between two countries with vastly different living standards, all hell will break loose.
  • 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.

  • by clambake ( 37702 ) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @12:01AM (#6831045) Homepage
    Someone in India can live off of $5000 a year, but an American can't even pay rent and utilities with that in a year.

    If no one can their rent in America, the rent will go down.

    Oddly, out here in San Francisco, the rents DIDN'T go down signifigantly once the dotcomer's left. They stayed nearly as high as they were for YEARS, the apartments completely empty, becuase real estate holders were hoping against hope that the rich people would return. They started laying off people instead of lowering thier rent prices. Even today there are daily layoffs at local title offices and rela estate agents. Sure, if you are willing to wait another 5-7 years, maybe the prices will become livable again, but 5-7 years is a loooong fucking time to out of a house.
  • Re:Optimisim? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cybpunks3 ( 612218 ) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @12:43AM (#6831187)
    The result is an unprecedented mismatch between the workforce and the demands of a growing high-tech economy. Projections by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the seven fastest-growing occupations this decade will all be in technology. Demand for applications software engineers and tech support specialists, for example, will double by 2010, according to the BLS. (See "The 10 Fastest-Growing Occupations," opposite page.) Even the seventh-ranked category, database administrators, is projected to grow by a stunning 66 percent. These high-demand tech fields will be the first to feel the labor crunch. By 2005, Carnevale says, "we'll start to see spot shortages all over the place." In some fields he predicts, employers will be reduced to filling desperate job shortages with unqualified workers. By the following decade, when the bulk of the baby boomers big their cubicles goodbye, a broad swath of corporate America will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for white-collar workers.

    India has the 2nd largest population in the world. I'm sure they can meet demand, and if they can't, other populous contries like China can.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2003 @12:59AM (#6831254)
    First off, if the Brazilian's are getting $5/hr that's good news. There are two of them for every one of you, plus another layer of middle management (the managers in Brazil) and the communications inefficiencies and risk of doing projects over. It will probably cost Dell the equivalent of $20/hr, and Brazilian wages are only going up.

    Secondly, some of middle management is being outsourced. If the Brazilian team succeeds, a big chunk of the people who managed you will also disappear, their jobs effectively outsourced to Brazil.

    But the main good news is that you can compete with $20/hr, and that price is only going up. The current out sourcing trend is a pendulum that has swung too far, and people are outsourcing based on the fact everyone else is doing it.

  • 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 benwaggoner ( 513209 ) <ben@waggoner.microsoft@com> on Saturday August 30, 2003 @01:11AM (#6831294) Homepage
    Well, natural resources etcetera are non-people reasons why we have greater productivity per capital, I suppose.

    Certainly, the track record of resource-dependent countries, especially oil or diamonds, is rather poor.

    I'd argue your point about the economy being "highly artificial" in some kind of meaningful sense. It evolved organically. Just because it doesn't make sense from some higher purpose, well, that's true of all organic things.

    As for IT spending, I'm sure much of it is wasted, but I think it certainly helps in a lot of ways. it's just that the gains from it are diffuse. Imagine trying to do your job for a month without email?
  • by Ian Lance Taylor ( 18693 ) <ian@airs.com> on Saturday August 30, 2003 @01:26AM (#6831331) Homepage
    Well, natural resources etcetera are non-people reasons why we have greater productivity per capital, I suppose.

    I would say that natural resources, etc., are reasons why the U.S. GDP is high. Greater productivity is also a reason for a high GDP. Natural resources do not obviously lead to greater productivity.

    Certainly, the track record of resource-dependent countries, especially oil or diamonds, is rather poor.

    There, see? You agree with me. Remember that while a country like Kuwait doesn't have high productivity, they sure have a high per capita GDP.

    I'd argue your point about the economy being "highly artificial" in some kind of meaningful sense. It evolved organically. Just because it doesn't make sense from some higher purpose, well, that's true of all organic things.

    Fair enough. I meant artificial in the sense that there is a great deal that people in the U.S. buy that they don't need--that is, things beyond food and shelter. I'm not saying that people shouldn't want these things, or shouldn't buy them. I'm saying that the U.S. economy works because people buy things they don't need. If people only bought what they needed--if we all joined a Zen monastery, say--the U.S. economy would collapse. Nobody would starve, but money would stop moving, jobs would disappear, and the whole thing would stabilize at a much lower GDP.

    And I'm not saying that IT isn't helpful. But we got along fine without it for a few thousand years, and we could get along fine without it in the future if we had to. Suggesting that I couldn't do my job without e-mail sort of misses my point; my point is that my job is also non-essential.
  • 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 aeoo ( 568706 ) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @01:50AM (#6831399) Journal
    Ok, call me stupid, and I've floated this idea before...so let me say it again (and I'll say it again later too).

    Why can't a person setup a company in the middle of USA, say Oklahoma or West Virginia, where living is cheap, and where people are content to enjoy nature and being paid less, say 30-40k a year. Sure, it's not as low as India, but if the quality of software products and services were high, English skills are a given (and will be head and shoulder above those of native Indians), time zone is better, it's more "patriotic", etc... there are many benefits to outsourcing to such a company.

    What I'm saying is, I think USA can compete with India on Indians terms. Sure, say goodbye to Silicon Valley (and good riddens, what a horrid, trashy place it has become, yuck, yuck). Say goodbye to high salaries. But all is not lost and there is plenty of room, we, USA citizens, can go down in price and still be happy. There will always be some fat schmucks who are arrogant and think they deserve 100k a year to write 2 lines of code a day, screw em. But there is plenty of opportunity in the middle of USA.

    The middle of USA is like India right here inside USA. And people living in there could sure use all the economic stimulus they can get. So, it would be both cheap, and good for the people, and competitive.

    So why not? If you are thinking of starting a new company, why not start it on a virgin land in some obscure state? Indians have proven that all you need is a phone line and the network connection (and sometimes even a modem connection is fine) and you get the job!

    I just can't understand why seemingly every fool insists on setting up their company in San Fran or NYC and then complains that they can't find cheap labor there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2003 @02:22AM (#6831489)
    I read a good article on this, which of course I can't remember now.
    Basically, if you move this somewhere, you now need a group to to manage this other group in a different time zone. The idea is that the other group is so cheap that the cost of the new group is negligible. Of course (waves hands) in the long term this doesn't work (was it Business Week? damn...).
    In the long term, the group you outsourced it to will realize "why should we sell our stuff through Widgets Inc? Lets go in to sell our stuff to their customers!" And you just funded a new competitor.
    Recently I took a Sun J2EE Architecture class. A student from Chase said that most development had already been moved overseas. The code reviews were horrendous but Chase figured they could afford the back-and-forth to get it fixed as it was so cheap. Software development has enough problems, I don't want to subscribe to the design philosophy of "throw it over the fence."
    Long view, this has already failed before, it will fail again. But it is trending toward a larger spread of the jobs, but not a "send them all somewhere else."

    Rick DeBay

    ObObservation: Why does the software industry have so many parallels to the US auto industry of the 1970s and 1980s, but management wont't see them?
  • 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?
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @03:03AM (#6831600) Journal
    Better yet do not re-elect bush. Dean for example is concerned about outsourcing and is speaking in Phoenix next month according to his website with out of work workers.

    Channel your anger and volunteer for any democratic candidate who supports your views. Many many are in the same boat as yourself.

    I read a post here already as a reply towards someone who wants to immigrate to India. The response was "Try telling Indian officials you there to work and steal away Indian jobs...".

    You know what? THey have been f*cking doing that and still are through the H1B1 visa program. AND THE INDUSTRY STILL IS LOBBYING FOR MORE!

    We need a government that like uh, represents us. India has one why can't we elect that does.

    Our current government favors the screwers over the average American and that is sad.

  • by NewsWatcher ( 450241 ) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @03:42AM (#6831710)
    It's just market economics doing what they do best - balancing out supply and demand.
    Oh, that must be why the gap between the rich and the poor is shrinking across the capitalistic world.
    I think you have your wires crossed. Market economics ultimately makes a few people very wealthy and most people extremely poor.
    I am not an American, but I have been to New York, and I can tell you, in the heart of capitalism, I have never seen such poverty living alongside such obscene wealth.
    The irony is that despite your flawed assumptions, your basic tenet is correct. What is happening in the IT field is market economics doing what it does best.
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @11:13AM (#6832894) Homepage
    What's happening in the IT world is painful, no way around it. I've seen good people, talented people on the bench for 8 or 9 months at a pop lately. It's ugly out there.

    Like some of the others here I've started moving towards running my own business, a non-tech business. My technical knowledge got me a plum contract in that non-technical field. Strange how it worked out. I've been telling people for years how technology can make them more effecient. Now I'm using technology to make me more efficient. Because I'm good at applying technology I can out-compete my peers in the same business. And the barrier to entrance, the cost of implementing new technology, is a non-factor. I don't need to pay someone to set up a network for me, hook up a DSL connection, install and configure a firewall, set up a web site, improve rankings in a search engine or use a new piece of software. It's a huge advantage. People in complementary services are recommending me to their customers because I use technology to make working with me easy for them.

    What I'm getting at in a round-about way is that I was surprised how much technical skill was an advantage in a non-technical field. That can work for you, too. So the $60,000 a year programmer jobs might be disappearing, but you can still take what you know and put it to practical use for yourself in a different area.

  • Re:Bad? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ralphdaugherty ( 225648 ) <ralph@ee.net> on Sunday August 31, 2003 @03:57AM (#6836951) Homepage
    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.

    Have you ever tried to find something made in the USA? I have. One store thought I was from a union because I was asking for made in US goods. They didn't have any. I bought a US car a few years ago. Opened the hood and it was a Mitsubishi. That's ok. Either the trade deficits or the budget deficits or an oil shock will make us no longer capable of affording to import more than we export, then we'll finally drop back to a WWII manufacturing economy and 40's living standards. I just hope we don't have to go through the 30's depression to get there.


If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?