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September 8, 2006 10:37 AM   Subscribe

IBM is laying off people in Burlington, Endicott, Rochester and Austin today. The presumptive reason is Indian outsourcing — some employees have posted that they were asked to train their replacements. Why hasn't this made the news?
posted by ubiquity (70 comments total)

 
Why hasn't this made the news?

Some sort of Republican conspiracy, no doubt.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:43 AM on September 8, 2006


Because there hasn't been a press release?

About 95% of the business section is re-worded press releases.
posted by GuyZero at 10:44 AM on September 8, 2006


Why hasn't this made the news?

Um, it has. Here, and if you think that's bad you should see what they did in Europe.

These things appear in the business pages all the time. If you add the word "layoffs" after your search in the last link, the story is the second search result.

What was the point again?
posted by Pastabagel at 10:48 AM on September 8, 2006


I'm sure Lou Dobbs will talk about it...

IBM has been laying off people for years now. See this announcement from last year (not sure if the current layoffs are the ones referenced in the article though).

As far as the larger issue of outsourcing goes, lots of companies have done it and will continue to do it. Many of them have required current employees to train their replacements. Right or wrong, it's not "news" in the sense that it's not an unknown phenomenon.
posted by giantfist at 10:50 AM on September 8, 2006


Oh, I get it. The story is that they have to train their replacements.

Well, they could always unionize.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:51 AM on September 8, 2006


I'd say at close of market on a Friday would be about perfect for a nice chatty little press release to be buried in the news. Which is today! Have a great weekend!
posted by hal9k at 10:52 AM on September 8, 2006


Why hasn't this made the news?

Probably because it happens all the time. It's a fact of business life these days. I had to train my Indian replacement when i was laid off in 2001. I don't like it any more now than I did then, but as far as an outrage-inducing news story, meh.
posted by pdb at 10:55 AM on September 8, 2006


I'd say at close of market on a Friday would be about perfect for a nice chatty little press release to be buried in the news. Which is today! Have a great weekend!


I don't think IBM would be inclined to try bury the story though. My impression is that the business community (those that purchase IBM's stock and use its services) see outsourcing and layoffs as a good thing. It means that they're restructuring, which means more profit.
posted by giantfist at 10:55 AM on September 8, 2006


Yup, so far the stock is up a point today.
posted by ubiquity at 11:07 AM on September 8, 2006


Why would someone train a replacement? Why wouldn't you just walk away?

Serious question, not a snark.
posted by gimonca at 11:08 AM on September 8, 2006


If you really really needed the money, most likely. You might think, "well, I can jobsearch while I'm pulling these last few months' checks, swallow my pride."
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:09 AM on September 8, 2006


gimonca: maybe at the time you wouldn't know s/he's your replacement?
posted by slater at 11:10 AM on September 8, 2006


gimonica: Your willingness to do so can be directly tied to the quality of your severance package.
posted by gnomeloaf at 11:10 AM on September 8, 2006


You're still getting paid while you're training your replacement. And when you're stuck with a house in Burlington, Rochester or Endicott, frankly, there's probably no employer ready to take on, say, a thousand senior tech staff from one day to the next, so job-hopping isn't as easy as it sounds -- you have to find a job somewhere else, figure out how you're going to move, and probably spend a lot of time thinking about how much you're going to lose when you try and sell a house in a market with, say, a thousand other homeowners also putting their house on the market in roughly the same time frame.
posted by clevershark at 11:11 AM on September 8, 2006


Good luck with your layoffs, all right? I hope your firings go really, really well.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:11 AM on September 8, 2006


slater writes "gimonca: maybe at the time you wouldn't know s/he's your replacement?"

Well, if your boss asks you to train someone to do your job, you should figure out that it's probably time to dust off the old resume. Unless you're the gullible type...
posted by clevershark at 11:12 AM on September 8, 2006


A reason for training your replacement rather than walking away would be loss of unemployment benefits. If you quit, you don't get those benefits.

That being said, there's no reason against training your replacement badly.
posted by Operation Afterglow at 11:13 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Does Lou Dobbs hate outsoucing as much as he hates mexicans?
posted by chunking express at 11:16 AM on September 8, 2006


gimonca, because employment is an unequal relationship. Future employers contact your past employers when you try for a new position. If you don't train your replacement they respond "we would not hire him again" or even worse, rather than being laid off you're now fired which is a blemish on your employment record.
posted by substrate at 11:16 AM on September 8, 2006


Pastabagel's link is from 2002, BTW. Which makes sense now that I reread his post but confused me at first.
posted by smackfu at 11:21 AM on September 8, 2006


The reason the Austin layoffs hasn't made the local media is because there's a football game this weekend. And Longhorn football is all the local media covers.
posted by birdherder at 11:23 AM on September 8, 2006


Why hasn't this made the news?
Because it isn't news anymore. It's status-quo.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:25 AM on September 8, 2006


Does Lou Dobbs hate outsoucing as much as he hates mexicans?

I don't know, but I hate outsoucing [sic] as much as I hate illegal immigrants.
posted by keswick at 11:26 AM on September 8, 2006


Interviewed an engineer yesterday who was hit by the Rochester layoffs. His team was moved to Beijing, not India. It actually turned out to be a net positive for him, since it meant that (for a time) he was bumped up to manager and got quite a bit of valuable experience running both teams while they did the transition.

My impression of IBM is that (seriously) they really, really hate to get rid of people completely. They spend years investing in their employees (in terms of training and benefits), so getting rid of them entirely tends to mean losing that investment. HR does their best to encourage laid-off employees to move to other jobs within IBM. If that means moving, usually IBM pays for it.

(incidentally, the person I interviewed wound up taking a position with another IBM group in Rochester)
posted by xthlc at 11:34 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


thanks for sharing, xthlc.
posted by uni verse at 11:47 AM on September 8, 2006


That being said, there's no reason against training your replacement badly.

Which explains a lot about offshore help desks.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:59 AM on September 8, 2006


I'm going to see a film based on the same premise: Outsourced
posted by nprigoda at 12:01 PM on September 8, 2006


(not the Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughan version)
posted by nprigoda at 12:02 PM on September 8, 2006


Why hasn't this made the news?

Big blue doesn't usually announce these things, so the press would actually have to do a little reporting beyond their normal copy-and-pasting of press releases.
posted by octothorpe at 12:04 PM on September 8, 2006


Dobbs detgests outsourcing--it costs Americans their jobs. He does not--repeat--does not hate Mexicans. He hates illegals who enter our country and get benefits etc while those waiting to get here legally wait and wait. He likes Mexicans and notes that Mexico is very strict about those entering their country illegally (via Central America etc).
posted by Postroad at 12:20 PM on September 8, 2006


I don't think IBM would be inclined to try bury the story though.

I've done lots of press releases through my company's MarComm perston. Believe me; the choice of day within a week is quite deliberate.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:43 PM on September 8, 2006


This post looks like a fine candiate for the eponymous tag.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:10 PM on September 8, 2006


Oh dear. I live in one of those lower wage countries (though not so low as India). Films get made here because we are as one unlovely Hollywood type put it a few years ago "Mexicans with cellphones."

When outsourcing deals come our way, we are very pleased. IBM has just made a bunch of people in India happy. They aren't say ohnoes, not at all.

This is what happens when you have the mistaken belief that you can have relationship a corporate entity, that the feelings you may have of loyalty and attachment can be reciprocated by an organisation.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2006


Why would someone train a replacement? Why wouldn't you just walk away?

Because I would want to make sure they were trained really well. You'd be surprised how many office workers don't understand how to play video games all day without being caught at all.
posted by illovich at 1:28 PM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Why would someone train a replacement? Why wouldn't you just walk away?

In my case, walking away before my end date would have resulted in the loss of 22 weeks' severance (with full benefits continuation). I don't care how much it sucked to train my replacement, I wasn't about to walk away from a subsidized 20-week vacation with a couple weeks of job hunting at the end of it.
posted by pdb at 1:38 PM on September 8, 2006


I've long ago accepted the fact that I am part of the last generation of Americans to make a good living programming computers. My solution is to make my career path as management-oriented as possible. This may even involve taking night classes to obtain a (shudder) MBA. There will, in my opinion, always be a need for people who can speak both business and IT.

I love programming, and probably will always do it for fun. It's sad to see this happen to my industry, but I'm sure all the union guys were sad to see their factories close as well.

It annoys me that we're allowing other countries to eat our lunch technologically. Well, this what happens when you refuse to fund your educational infrastructure.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:52 PM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Because it dosn't matter?

Why should people be entitled to jobs just because they were born in a certain country? Ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 2:18 PM on September 8, 2006


There will, in my opinion, always be a need for people who can speak both business and IT.

God are you kidding? It's been proven* that getting an MBA actually reduces your ability to communicate in all circumstances, including with business people.

Secondly what the hell are you talking about? There are tons of high-paying computer science jobs around. Ranting about outsourcing just lunatic alarmism by the marginal people who suck anyway and should lose their jobs.
posted by delmoi at 2:20 PM on September 8, 2006


Dobbs detgests outsourcing--it costs Americans their jobs. He does not--repeat--does not hate Mexicans. He hates illegals...

Did ever occur to you that what he says and what he believes are different things? Beliefs elicit behavior, not words.

...who enter our country and get benefits etc while those waiting to get here legally wait and wait.

Awesome "benefits" like picking grapes for $2 an hour. It's not like the US government just hands out "benefits" to anyone who asks like many other countries, which is one of the reason our immigration policy is one of the laxest in the world, as it should be.

He likes Mexicans and notes that Mexico is very strict about those entering their country illegally (via Central America etc).

Yes, because if there is one government we should seek to emulate, it's Mexico's.
posted by delmoi at 2:27 PM on September 8, 2006



by the way, the benefits paid to illegal immigrants is no different then any other government farm subsidy. Did you know that the government pays farmers billions and billions of dollars a year for absolutely no reason at all? (Technically they get paid based on what they produce, whether or not anyone wants to buy it. Then it gets dumped on other countries for super cheap, which causes their own agricultural markets to be unprofitable).

Benefits for illegal immigrants are no different then any other farm subsidy, and they allow farmers to make even more profit. Of course, public schooling for the children of illegal is a benefit for the child, rather then the parents, and those educated children (many born here and citizens) will actually reimburse the government in the form of taxes over their lifetimes.
posted by delmoi at 2:34 PM on September 8, 2006


I'm waiting to see what's behind that asterisk, delmoi.
posted by boo_radley at 2:35 PM on September 8, 2006


Which explains a lot about offshore help desks.

I'm sick and tired of this.
On the occations where I have talking to "native" helpdesk staff I have been belittled, ridiculed, told that "that's not our policy" and "I don't know, but I'm sure you can find that info on our website".
When I get Indian help desks, I mostly get prompt, courteous, patient and efficient help with my problem.

So don't give me that bull about offshore helpdesks.

I don't give a damn if the person on the other end is white or brown, I only care whether they are competent.
And with the sort of salaries help-desks offer, they're only able to attract competent staff in poor countries like Inida or China.

Heck, outsource all help desks I say.
posted by spazzm at 3:19 PM on September 8, 2006


* = hot air; conjecture
posted by foot at 3:25 PM on September 8, 2006


Ah, severance, yes. Thanks!
posted by gimonca at 3:45 PM on September 8, 2006


I remember calling tech support. In the early 90s. They weren't helpful then (when they were all US-based), and if one is to believe the many current testimonials on the subject they aren't terribly helpful now. I don't think location matters much in that respect.
posted by clevershark at 4:11 PM on September 8, 2006


I've generally found US based non-tech support to be pretty helpful (ordering support for catalogues/internet shopping, support offered by banks, etc.), and US based tech support remarkably unhelpful. The main complaints I hear about overseas tech support are that they are script based, unhelpful, and hard to understand. So, basically, the big issue is that, unlike US based tech support where it's very clear that tech support isn't helping you, with overseas tech support, depending on the strength of the accent of the person you're speaking to, it may be unclear that tech support isn't helping you.
posted by Bugbread at 4:52 PM on September 8, 2006


That seems to be about the size of it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:23 PM on September 8, 2006


Except that, in my most recent offshore/onshore experience, Dish network's order desk was staffed with people whose English was near-unintelligible, whose only answer to any question was to read their script again, and who insisted they were in New York, when they obviously weren't. Dish network's tech support, on the other hand, is based here, speaks idiomatic American English, and was very helpful on both occasions I spoke with them. FWIW.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:30 PM on September 8, 2006


I'm waiting to see what's behind that asterisk, delmoi.

Sorry about that. I was going to say something like "By 'proven' I mean not proven" By the way, "proven" has been proven to be one of those words that starts to sound very bizarre if you say it too many times. like, "I thought this coffee was Columbian, but it's been proven Peruvian!"
posted by delmoi at 6:12 PM on September 8, 2006


Kirth: There are obviously different levels of quality when it comes to Indian help desks.
posted by delmoi at 6:14 PM on September 8, 2006


I had to train my own replacements in Bangalore. The training went so poorly that half of my six person group was asked to stay on after being told we were gone.

I suppose you could look at the months I've spent there since then as extended training of my replacements. I tend to see it that way. That's reinforced when I hear my upper management talk about how hiring the few people they hired in the U.S. was a short-term strategic move.

Nothing against the guys in India that I work with. They're nice guys, and I don't begrudge them the work. The people who were laid off were nice people too.

"India, Brazil, and Managers". I like that. Sounds like the mantra of the IT consultancy I work for now, who took over the IT function from IBM where I work, which resulted in the offshoring I've lived through.
posted by geneablogy at 6:32 PM on September 8, 2006


While I'm not in India (and hence actually am not that downstream on the outsourcing chain), for its worth, I'm Indian, and part of my project has been outsourced to colleagues in Phillipines, Malaysia and Thailand. This train-your-replacement thingy happens all the time at my workplace; in fact, and I say this with some amusement, in a build team of 70-odd people, there are exactly two non-ex-pats. Everyone else is either offshore, or if they're on-location, are trans-national.

All I can say is this: - the reality of globalization isn't about losing your jobs to scripted monkeys elsewhere. It is that values like loyalty to a company, or even honesty in effort, are valued much less than negotiation skills, and a certain street-smart-ness.
posted by the cydonian at 8:33 PM on September 8, 2006


I worked for a local Australian company which was aquired by a multi-national. After a few years, they consolidated a lot of the IT operations of the companies they'd acquired around the world.

As a reult, mine and many of my colleagues' roles were outsourced to the USA. Some other positions were outsourced to India. At the same time, some responsibilities were transferred from Japan to Australia, creating new jobs here.

I guess my point is that the jobs don't always go to India or China.
posted by Diag at 9:42 PM on September 8, 2006


I've long ago accepted the fact that I am part of the last generation of Americans to make a good living programming computers.

And your parents long ago accepted the fact that they'd be the last generation of Americans to make a good living at building cars. And their parents long ago accepted the fact that they'd be the last generation of Americans to make a good living at mining, and their parents long ago accepted the fact that they'd be the last generation of Americans to make a good living off the land.

Job skill requirements go up, education gets commoditized, personal debt increases to play catch-up with whatever the next "Big Thing" is that will guarantee you some work for another 5 years if you're lucky.

In twenty years time this same discussion is going to be had on a Chinese weblog complaining about how all the jobs that you used to be able to make a good living from are being shipped to Africa.

In fifty years the Africans will be complaining about how all the good jobs have been mechanized. What do we do then, when the jobs run out? Our entire culture of capitalism is rooted in the foundation that work brings life. We go to school for a good job so we can buy a house and keep food in our stomachs. Remove work from the equation and what are you left with?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:22 PM on September 8, 2006


Civil_Disobedient : "What do we do then, when the jobs run out?"

What will we do when the sun turns into a giant pokemon? What will we do when all the earth's volcanos turn into candy bars?
posted by Bugbread at 6:40 AM on September 9, 2006


Ah, argument by idiocy. Because those things you mention are just as likely not to happen?

Wake up.

The amount of time and money it takes to be a "productive" member of society is increasing at a geometric rate, while life expectancy is topping off. That leaves McJobs for the rest of us, until science and industry come up with mechanisms to replace even that. Then what?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:20 AM on September 9, 2006


Ah, argument by idiocy. Because those things you mention are just as likely not to happen?

Better then argument by hysteria.
posted by delmoi at 7:32 AM on September 9, 2006


I've long ago accepted the fact that I am part of the last generation of Americans to make a good living programming computers.

I find the whole idea of computer programmers, whose stock in trade for decades has been outsourcing decent, respectable white-collar jobs to a silicon chip, complaining about themselves being outsourced to be darkly humorous.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2006


Civil_Disobedient : "Because those things you mention are just as likely not to happen?"

Yes, that was indeed my point.

Civil_Disobedient : "The amount of time and money it takes to be a 'productive' member of society is increasing at a geometric rate, while life expectancy is topping off."

It is? It takes me as long to be a productive member of society as it took my dad. Talking to my grandpa, it takes me less time to be a productive member of society. And while it takes more money, I also make more money. Things cost massively more than they did in my grandparents' day, and salaries are massively higher than in my grandparents' day. Balancing those two factors against eachother, there's been a bit of play back and forth in prices, but generally things get cheaper while new "necessities" (air conditioning, refrigerators (instead of iceboxes), computers, etc.) come in at higher prices, and in the end the percentage of income that's used in expenses stays relatively constant, except for in America where so many people have no goddamn money sense.

Civil_Disobedient : "That leaves McJobs for the rest of us"

Even if expenditures were increasing greater than income, and work time were increasing in some sort of long-term fashion, I don't know how that translates into everybody working in low pay, low wage jobs without the option of moving up within the company.

Civil_Disobedient : "until science and industry come up with mechanisms to replace even that"

Science and industry are job fields. If everybody is doing McJobs, who is doing the scientific and industrial work that will get rid of our McJobs?
posted by Bugbread at 9:28 AM on September 9, 2006


Balancing those two factors against eachother, there's been a bit of play back and forth in prices, but generally things get cheaper

If that were the case, why is personal debt increasing at such an alarming rate? Why is it significantly more difficult to buy a home than it was for our parents, or their parents?

in the end the percentage of income that's used in expenses stays relatively constant, except for in America where so many people have no goddamn money sense.

Come on. Do you really believe that the reason why, say, personal bancruptcy is at an all-time high is because people just can't get enough plasma TV's or SUV's?

Science and industry are job fields.

Of course they are. But as technological complexity increases, one requires more and more formal education to get on the ground floor of the industry. Look at medicine, for instance. Nearly half your life is spent in school before you can even start practicing. "Pure" technology industries are just as bad, and just as specialized. What we will end up with is a three-class system of creators that discover and build new technologies and industries—and a good chunk of them will be in debt up to their noses. Those unable to get a PhD. will fight for scraps of whatever middle-man jobs are left in this country, but those sorts of jobs are easily shipped overseas.

For our parents, an MA meant a good job. A BA got your foot in the door. For your grandparents, it was a highschool diploma. Used to be you could become a lawyer if you simply passed the bar. No longer—now it's 3 years and a hundred grand in tuition.

The other two classes will be those who simply by virtue of already inheriting money or land can sustain and increase their personal wealth, and finally the teeming multitudes (population: billions) that won't have the financial capabilities to get the requisite schooling and whose parents have no property to bequeath to them.

They're basically fucked.

If everybody is doing McJobs, who is doing the scientific and industrial work that will get rid of our McJobs?
The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots. Thank you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:16 AM on September 9, 2006


If that were the case, why is personal debt increasing at such an alarming rate?

Surely part of it is that personal debt is more available than it was to our parents or grandparents. Your grandparents simply didn't have the option of credit card debt when they were coming up, and your parents couldn't easily use a home equity LOC to pay off credit cards that they then used up again.

Why is it significantly more difficult to buy a home than it was for our parents, or their parents?

Where it is, that's because there's a short-term bubble in real estate. In many places, though, it isn't -- there are huge swaths of the country where inflation-adjusted or even nominal prices have been flat or falling for decades, and where just about any schmuck can afford a house.

And it's not just small hick towns that nobody would want to live in that have more-or-less flat prices, there are plenty of real cities in there. Sure, some of them are rust-belt towns like Buffalo or Rochester or Pittsburgh or Cleveland. But others are growing, like D/FW or Atlanta or RDU or St. Louis.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:48 AM on September 9, 2006


Civil_Disobedient : "If that were the case, why is personal debt increasing at such an alarming rate? Why is it significantly more difficult to buy a home than it was for our parents, or their parents?"

I'm not sure why personal debt is increasing in America, but from what I've read, it appears that that is a phenomenon relatively isolated to America, and not universal.

Now, housing is definitely one of the fields where pricing has gone up sharply, no disagreement there. Then again, having been raised in relative contact with the Spanish branch of my family, and now living in Japan, I always had the impression that housing prices were inordinately low in America (don't get me wrong, that was a great thing, and I'm happy we owned the house I was raised in), and the price increase is more a coming-into-alignment-with-the-rest-of-the-first-world thing than a "the prices will continue to rise forever and thus we will all work in McDonald's" thing.

Civil_Disobedient : "Come on. Do you really believe that the reason why, say, personal bancruptcy is at an all-time high is because people just can't get enough plasma TV's or SUV's?"

I really don't know. I don't know why everyone is in so much debt. The average income in America is about the same as here in Japan, but the cost of living is much, much cheaper in America. I personally cannot understand what people are doing with their money, when Japanese make the same amount, have a higher cost of living, and yet avoid debt.

---

But reading your paragraphs after the "science and industry are jobs" quote, it seems like I misunderstood your initial comment. I thought you were positing a future where there were no more jobs, because everything had been automated. I see now that you were talking about a future where there were no jobs in America, because the midlevel jobs were shipped overseas, and the low-level jobs automated. That makes a bit more sense to me (I doubt it will happen, but it doesn't seem like the batshitinsane "in the future everything on Earth will be automated and everyone will be unemployed!" comment I thought you were initially making.)

ROU_Xenophobe : "Where it is, that's because there's a short-term bubble in real estate. In many places, though, it isn't -- there are huge swaths of the country where inflation-adjusted or even nominal prices have been flat or falling for decades, and where just about any schmuck can afford a house."

Good point. My family home cost us $100,000 or so new when we bought it (two floors, two garage, nice area, big yard). Prices have risen, and now it might cost $125,000 or so for an equivalent new house. And it's not like we were living in a corn field in the middle of nowhere, this is Houston, the 4th (or 8th, or maybe 10th, depending on what metric you use) largest city in the US.

Of course, whenever you mention "Houston", people start with the "but I don't wanna live in Texas, Texas sucks!". In which case I have to wonder if the problem they have is that housing costs are really high in the US, or just that housing costs are really high in the most coveted and desirable areas. In which case, big fucking deal, even when my grandparents were kids housing in the desirable areas was expensive. Comparing the average prices of houses from the 1930s to the price of houses in the best parts of town in the most coveted areas of the US now is like saying that it costs a lot more nowadays to buy a diamond than it cost my grandpa to buy a handful of gravel. (Er, note, C_D, that wasn't directed at you, it's just that it's a frequent response in general).
posted by Bugbread at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2006


The message is "learn to be a boardroom jockey with connections and no discernible skills whatsoever". That sort of job will never be outsourced, and you can get very far in life with that "skillset".
posted by clevershark at 1:46 PM on September 9, 2006


I doubt it will happen, but it doesn't seem like the batshitinsane "in the future everything on Earth will be automated and everyone will be unemployed!" comment I thought you were initially making.

Truth be told, at the time I posted it I was actually thinking this. The only thing stopping it from happening now is that it would cost more to build a machine to do all the menial jobs humans are willing to do in the third world for peanuts, and that the sorts of complex machines that could replace humans in these tasks (farming, for example) would likely be prone to constant breakdown. But in time... I don't know.

I do know, however, that for our capitalistic system to keep functioning in the ever-widening global marketplace, we have to continuously find newer sources of cheap labor to compete. And what invariably happens is that those countries eventually pull themselves out of the gutter, pay scales increase, and corporations move on to greener, cheaper pastures. It happened in Japan, Korea and much of SE Asia. India and China have a boatload of people, and China in particular has a very efficient system for producing a seemingly never-ending supply of slave labor, so it might not matter for a centuries. Then again, a single revolution can change everything. Like I said, I don't know.

In which case I have to wonder if the problem they have is that housing costs are really high in the US, or just that housing costs are really high in the most coveted and desirable areas.

Excellent point. When I first moved to Nebraska, I was astounded at the complete lack of real-estate craziness and my first thought was, "No wonder the rest of the country isn't hopping mad about the housing bubble." For a large portion of the American population, they just don't see what all the fuss is, and I can't blame them.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:40 PM on September 9, 2006


Civil_Disobedient : "And what invariably happens is that those countries eventually pull themselves out of the gutter, pay scales increase, and corporations move on to greener, cheaper pastures."

Right. Which is why I don't think jobs are going to vanish as much as move around. Eventually, you hit a second bottom (the bottom-most bottom would be logically the country with the absolute cheapest wages, period, but those countries also tend to have a lot of hidden expenses in the form of government and private corruption, political instability, and the like, so the practical bottom is a country that may not have the cheapest wages, but has the cheapest wages of countries where bribery/sabotage/other-hidden-costs are minimal), and presumably those jobs stay there.

On the global scale, unemployment is absolutely rampant, while employment in the first world is generally good. With jobs moving around, it may seem to folks that jobs are disappearing, but it's probably more accurate to say that employment (and unemployment) are just moving around. And any initiatives to decrease costs further (which is pretty much a guarantee in a capitalist economy) will require people to put it into effect, so even if all manufacturing of everything everywhere were mechanized, there still would be jobs in the sense of all the people planning, designing, deploying, advertising, documenting, troubleshooting, repairing, and otherwise being involved with those initiatives.

Now, in the really long term (as in "sci-fi long term"), yes, I suppose matter assembly equipment that could put together anything would wipe out pretty much all manufacturing except for repairmen and the people involved in making that equipment more efficient, but once we're talking that far into the future, the number of unknown and unknowable factors is big enough that I'm happy to leave it to fiction writers rather than analysts who couldn't even correctly guess how much the PS3 was going to cost.

Regarding debt and housing prices, one of the things I find interesting is the gap between how Japanese think of housing and how Americans think of housing. In Japan (which has minimal personal debt), the standard housing loan is 30 years (at least, in the major cities). Quite often, people will pass away before they've finished paying for the house, and their kids will take over the mortgage, because it's better to keep paying for a mostly paid off house than starting to pay a new mortgage on a new house. But what I find interesting is that the concept of buying a house is basically a permanent thing. You find a house, you start paying, you move in, and you live there until you're old. It isn't like America where people try to buy a new house despite not having paid off their old house, and play the real estate game as a way to generate revenue.

I honestly don't know much of anything about real estate. My way of thinking has been influenced by the way of thought here: from what I know, you find a place you like, start paying for your house, and that's it until you're dead. Whenever I read on the English speaking net about the refinancing of personal equity versus invested ownership lien based mortgage incentive paradiddles my eyes just glaze over like when I tried to learn C. But I wonder why Americans, who are so intent on all these clever money making measures involving real estate, are in so much debt, whereas folks in Tokyo who pay just as much or more, but skip the whole game part, are in much less debt.
posted by Bugbread at 5:45 PM on September 9, 2006


I find the whole idea of computer programmers, whose stock in trade for decades has been outsourcing decent, respectable white-collar jobs to a silicon chip, complaining about themselves being outsourced to be darkly humorous.

What a good point you make. We should give those jobs "outsourcing decent, respectable white-collar jobs to a silicon chip" to people outside the country. That way, nobody here has a job.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:28 AM on September 10, 2006


Afroblanco : "What a good point you make."

I don't think ROU_Xenophobe is "making a point", just stating that the situation is darkly humorous. Saying that something is darkly humorous doesn't necessarily mean thinking it's a good or right thing.
posted by Bugbread at 5:15 AM on September 10, 2006


Ok, well, let's just say that I don't happen to share his "sense of humor."
posted by Afroblanco at 8:10 AM on September 10, 2006


It's just ironic to see the greatest outsourcers of the postwar period complaining about being outsourced (to different people, instead of to software).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2006


Why would someone train a replacement? Why wouldn't you just walk away?

If you want to get paid, you stay and train. That doesn't necessarily mean you train them well or properly. ("It's important to remember that the boss prefers to be called 'Needle Dick'.") Um, not that I ever did anything underhanded like that.... ::::whistling::::
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:12 PM on September 10, 2006


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