Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Giant Sucking Sound
I hope Ross Perot's famous phrase isn't making Kreblog nervous, but outsourcing of IT jobs to lower cost countries (India in particular) is accelerating rapidly. Indeed, high speed internet, voice, and data connections have made it possible for greater outsourcing of tasks and jobs that require a desk and a computer to places outside the US - from call centers in India handling US customer service calls to the processing of insurance claims in Ghana. I've read some interesting thoughts on this trend, notably from Glenn Reynolds, about what this may mean for computer/desk jobs here at home (go here for his latest thoughts on the subject). Indeed, Glenn seems to think that many decent computer related service jobs, or service jobs involving computers/data entry will disappear much along the same lines that low level manufacturing jobs disappeared from the US in the 70s and 80s - many having been transferred overseas to lower cost operators. Interestingly enough, given the abundance of human brainpower across the globe, fast-access communications can tap into these brains wherever they may reside. Given that, it suggests that jobs which require brainpower over manpower are increasingly exportable/outsourceable - with price being the determining factor in whose brains are employed.

Which leads to the other half of the coin that Glenn mentions, and that is the jobs that will remain in demand here will be the hands on jobs that cannot be performed remotely, ie jobs that require an electrician to wire a socket in your house, or a plumber to fix your toilet, or a mechanic to fix your car. These skills cannot be transferable to foreign low cost providers because distance is the constraining factor that prevents this from happening. We will always have a need for goods and services that exist in our actual physical space and environment.

Considering that, the most secure, lucrative jobs in the future may in fact be those unglamorous jobs you see in the classifieds section of your local newspaper. In fact, it may be that we are seeing the beginnings of an up-ending of the white collar/blue collar occupational divide, where white collar service professions become commodified and in-demand manual services become glamorized. You can see examples of this I believe with regards to the explosion in popularity of the do-it-yourself mentality, from gourmet cooking, landscaping, interior design, craftwork, etc. People are rediscovering artisanal talents involving manual and physical effort. I think as the appreciation for these things has grown over the course of recent years, those who can offer up such talents as services in their local regions will find increasing opportunities to take advantage of. Indeed, learning to bake a really good loaf of bread may turn out to be the wisest career choice for the future.


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