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Fairtrade towns
April 17, 2007 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Wolfville, Nova Scotia to become Canada's first fairtrade town, with an added emphasis on buying locally. Garstang, England, became the world's first fairtrade town in 2000, and Wales is aiming at being the first fairtrade country. Too big of a scale for you? You might want to start by encouraging your local schools or religious communities to make the jump.
posted by arcticwoman (91 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Doesn't the livelihood of a lot of North Americans involve non-fairtrade goods?

Are we realistically able to pay "fair" prices for everything and keep everyone here employed? Wouldn't a lot of middle-men (read: much of North America) find themselves out of work if such a movement was ultimately successful? Not that I think and individual's livelihood should be necessarily protected by the government (hi RIAA!), but I always thought a lot of the reason that North America is doing well economically and that people here can lead comfortable lifestyles is because of "unfair" trade for goods and labour.

Please correct me if I have a horribly skewed view of things. I'm by no means an economist.

(And of course typing this out, I'm reminded of the vast amounts of natural resources we output, especially here in Canada. So it could just be I'm deluded.)
posted by ODiV at 2:59 PM on April 17, 2007


You can put all the pretty masks you like on it, it's still capitalism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:02 PM on April 17, 2007


Why isn't the "fair" price for a product whatever the market will bear?
posted by gyc at 3:16 PM on April 17, 2007


So the main idea of "fair trade" seems to be that if we all agreed to pay above the market price for agricultural goods, it would serve to reduce poverty among farmers in the third world. While this may look good to the residents of Wolfville (home of Acadia University: Canada's highest-tuition university), it is a silly solution.

Setting a price based on the need of the producers doesn't work. It didn't work in 1917, and it doesn't work now. Why? Incentives. If the amount I get paid for a good has no relation to the demand for the good, I have no incentive to make the good more demanded by improving the quality. Furthermore, if the amount I get paid for a good is relative to the labor put in, I actually have a disincentive to spend my money on capital goods that will improve my productivity, since if the labor cost of a single unit of (say) coffee goes down, so does the price I receive. The only way to get real improvements in the standard of living is by improving productivity, improvements which fair trade makes less likely.

Let me say that again. the only way to get real improvements in the standard of living is by improving productivity. Want to have more stuff? Then you better be making more stuff. This is pretty intuitive. So what does fair trade do? Pick an arbitrary "standard of living" and guarantee it--and no more--to the third-world farmers it ostensibly supports. But want to be one of the haves instead of the have-nots? Forget it. Just take our charity and be happy you're not even poorer.

Also, upping the price of a good reduces the demand. This means that some farmers that would otherwise be gainfully employed will become unemployed. Does this really sound fair for them?

The other bits---making sure the farmers you buy from are being responsible to the environment and to their workers---seem OK (at least insofar as the strictures being observed are reasonable ones). But not nearly OK enough to counteract the Marxist economics and outdated Socialist bromides that the whole idea of fair trade is essentially based on.

Governments, voters, and silk-stocking socialists of Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand: are you really serious about trading fair? End the agricultural subsidies, tariffs and quotas that are actually impoverishing the farmers of the rest of the world.
posted by goingonit at 3:22 PM on April 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also: think the problem is information asymmetry between producers and buyers in third-world markets, leading to the producers getting an unfairly low price? Give the producers better access to information!
posted by goingonit at 3:38 PM on April 17, 2007


I like the Nova Scotia emphasis on local producers and growers--that's far more important to all of us than producers of import goods elsewhere.

Most of us don't produce any goods anymore--we provide services and information and entertainment, etc. Our countries, however. (esp. Canada and the US--and the EU) can produce almost everything foodwise itself, but still imports cheap stuff from China and elsewhere--it's only a matter of time before it's not pets dying from tainted wheat gluten but tons of people.

A fair-trade thing that puts its emphasis locally would do more to help than trying to bring 3rd-world coffee-pickers' wages up a fraction for only a small fraction of total workers, etc., while the rest of us still bought Maxwell House, etc. We already have labor laws here, etc, and haven't had any success in improving labor laws abroad (often it's exactly the opposite, since corporations moving overseas ensure that no progress occurs).
posted by amberglow at 4:26 PM on April 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


goingonit, do you believe your criticisms of international fair trade would apply to domestic minimum wage and health & safety requirements? They seem similar to me.
posted by Richard Daly at 4:30 PM on April 17, 2007


Rebuttal
posted by blue_beetle at 4:47 PM on April 17, 2007


Richard Daly:

My internal jury's still out on the minimum wage. There are valid critiques of it: Hong Kong seemed to do fine without it; it hurts the least skilled most because their labor is not demanded at the minimum price; many (perhaps most) of the people earning minimum wage are dependents from middle-class families in part-time jobs. But on the other hand, minimum wage increases *do* increase wages among the working poor, and there are big empirical arguments about whether minimum wages are high enough for any of the negative consequences to kick in.

But as to whether my critiques would apply, I feel they would not. Fair trade is about goods and the minimum wage is about labor. Unlike one banana, one person-hour of labor will always have the same labor input. So setting the price of labor based on the cost of living does not have the same incentive-related effects. For one thing, people still have incentives to use their labor in the way that society values it most (since you don't get the same wage no matter what job you do), and thus to increase their own productivity; for another, capital investment becomes (if anything) more attractive, since the relative price of capital to labor becomes lower.

As for domestic health & safety requirements: as I said, I'm perfectly fine with the non-price-floor bits of fair trade.
posted by goingonit at 4:51 PM on April 17, 2007


Let me say that again. the only way to get real improvements in the standard of living is by improving productivity. Want to have more stuff? Then you better be making more stuff. This is pretty intuitive. So what does fair trade do? Pick an arbitrary "standard of living" and guarantee it--and no more--to the third-world farmers it ostensibly supports. But want to be one of the haves instead of the have-nots? Forget it. Just take our charity and be happy you're not even poorer.

One of the areas where you can see this at work is in the coffee markets. In those places where fair trade stuff exists, producers are just producing the same old crap in the hopes of getting that good fair trade price that's above market rate, but the fair trade buyers just can't afford to buy it all because there's no market for the product at that price. However, alternative schemes, such as the Cup of Excellence programmes, focus upon teaching producers how to improve their *quality* and the farmers that are able to do this aren't just trying to produce unsaleable coffee for a few pennies over the going rate, they're producing a product that sells into the specialist gourmet market for several hundred times the market rate of the usual stuff. Surely this is a much more genuinely sustainable method of improving people's standard of living, their income and their industry.

goingonit, do you believe your criticisms of international fair trade would apply to domestic minimum wage and health & safety requirements? They seem similar to me.

I'm at the exact opposite end of the political spectrum from goingonit. I *am* a silk stocking socialist. But I agree with him completely on this issue. See here for more on the subject.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:56 PM on April 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why isn't the "fair" price for a product whatever the market will bear?

Because the current form of the global "market" is about exploitation (the marxist idea) just as much as it is about finding efficiencies (the neoliberal idea). How can trade be fair between two parties with asymmetrical information and asymmetrical bargaining power? and yet the "market" allows this all the time.

Fair trade campaigns are usually about giving consumers access to information--through certification processes, information about working and environmental conditions of producers that are necessary for us as consumers to make rational decisions about the products we buy. This information is purposefully obscured by advertising campaigns.

Your musing that the higher prices mean fewer farmers is ideological crap. I know a lot of local shrimpers in Louisiana who wouldn't have to work a second job, or would still be shrimping if we raised the price of shrimp at the fish house. They hate establishment environmentalists, but those environmentalists would certainly be buying more local shrimp if they knew the costs of the "cheap" imported, antibiotic-fed, farm-raised shrimp from Thailand or Brazil.

Here's their fair trade campaign propaganda:
http://www.wildamericanshrimp.com/main.html

There are many costs to exchanges not reflected in the price information. Fair trade is an attempt to make up for this information gap.
posted by eustatic at 5:28 PM on April 17, 2007


"You don't walk into a four-star restaurant and demand to know whether they pay their chefs minimum wage," says Cho.

I do and we should, as rational consumers.
posted by eustatic at 5:38 PM on April 17, 2007


Well I'll be damned, Wolfville's on Metafilter. I didn't ever expect to see that.

I'm a student at Acadia University, and have lived in Wolfville for the past four years. Issues with the tenets of fair trade aside, the importance of the 'buy local' part of Wolfville's move really needs to be emphasized. Yes, this is a pretty typical liberal arts college in a typical college town, with all the politics that that entails - the local coffeeshop, for instance, has bookshelves stocked with Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein. But Wolfville's also the only real place of wealth in an area, the Annapolis Valley, which is heavily agricultural and pretty staggeringly poor, even by Nova Scotia standards. The town has done a lot in the past to encourage the purchase of locally-grown products from small farmers, and as a result it's pretty easy to find such things: the University hosts a weekly Farmer's Market in the Students' Union Building, for instance, and you can purchase locally-grown produce at the regular grocery store. Pursuing this fair trade title has, I think, as much to do with supporting small local farmers as anything.
posted by ZaphodB at 5:49 PM on April 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, did not expect to see Wolfville on mefi either.
I'm originally from the Valley, and went to Acadia as well. The town is jam-packed with hippie-wannabes and such idealists, so this sort of thing is not really surprising to me.
Unfortunately I've been overseas for nearly a decade now, so I don't really know anything about the situation to comment further.
posted by nightchrome at 6:05 PM on April 17, 2007


All the anti-fair-traders (note how I resist calling you unfair-traders) have to answer another question:

How come all those years we just went with the race-to-the-bottom economics and the rich got richer and the poor got poorer? Don't give me your Chicago school voodoo economics about incentives and price inelasticity.

Every time you buy tea or coffee or diamonds at the "market rate" you are more often than not complicit in someone's economic, environmental and social nightmare.

Fair trade works.
posted by imperium at 6:20 PM on April 17, 2007


^eponysterical
posted by nightchrome at 6:35 PM on April 17, 2007


Quality isn't the only product value. Prestige is, also. Slap a logo on something and the market may bear a higher price. "Fair Trade" coffee isn't the same as non-fair trade coffee, just by virtue of the category. People will pay more for it, as a prestige item, to feel good about it, and to vote with their dollars even if only a few.

I like the idea of working to better one's position within the capitalist system through the production of superior goods, but we can decide that things beside product quality have value, too. I'm a little reminded of the environmental debate(s) on this point: yes, lumber and cheap waste disposal are nice, but so are clean rivers and air, even if you can't bottle and sell it. In this case, you can.

and what imperium said. eh, but also what ODiV said.
posted by dreamsign at 6:36 PM on April 17, 2007


imperium:

1) We haven't gone with "race-to-the-bottom economics". It's been anything but. Between USAID, agricultural subsidies, financial support for corrupt governments, United Fruit, and well-meaning NGOs, the rich have never stopped mucking about in the affairs of the poor. Besides, I'm not arguing in favor of the "invisible hand" and nothing else. There are some serious failures in the market that need to be remedied---but Fair Trade is the wrong way to bring this about.

2) The poor haven't gotten poorer: Africa's gotten poorer. But somehow, India, China, South Korea, Singapore, and in fact most of Southern and Eastern Asia are doing much better. The question isn't "why is the third world poor?"--it's "what differentiates the least developed from the developing?"

3) Correlation doesn't imply causation, and warm-and-fuzzy anecdotes don't imply successful policy. So one Mayan village saw benefits from fair trade. Does this mean it "works"? I wonder what we could do to figure out whether these effects are seen across the board or only in limited areas? Maybe some empirical evidence would be nice? Which brings me to...

4) Economists answer questions like this for a living. I appreciate that you disagree with some of them, but do make sure you don't write of an entire field. Reasonable minds may differ about economic issues, but too often the Left sees that economists tend to the right more than most of academia and decides to write off the whole field. Arguments about economics, even if you disagree with them, deserve a refutation and not just a snark.
posted by goingonit at 6:47 PM on April 17, 2007


2) The poor haven't gotten poorer: Africa's gotten poorer. But somehow, India, China, South Korea, Singapore, and in fact most of Southern and Eastern Asia are doing much better. The question isn't "why is the third world poor?"--it's "what differentiates the least developed from the developing?"
for your #2 at least, part of it is because millions and millions of manufacturing and service jobs have gone to India, China, Singapore, etc, in search of cheaper wages and more profit. They started with Mexico and Ireland, and keep on moving. I hear the Phillippines will be "benefiting" soon too.

Pursuing this fair trade title has, I think, as much to do with supporting small local farmers as anything.
This is what i like about the Wolfville thing. It's doable in all areas with farms within 100 miles, i think, and there should be price controls too--it shouldn't just be rich people going to farmer's markets because the prices are so outrageous--cutting out a middleman should mean reasonable prices and savings on packaging and delivery and all sorts of in-between things.
posted by amberglow at 7:04 PM on April 17, 2007


Buying locally - sure, right. That would mean no vegetables whatsoever for six months out of the year, no fish, no spices...

....yeah, I'll get right on it. Dumb idea thought up by people who live in warm climates.
posted by watsondog at 7:33 PM on April 17, 2007


Fair Isle is, quite aptly, a fair trade island now.
posted by scruss at 7:35 PM on April 17, 2007


Buying locally doesn't address the difference between the local producer and the remote producer.

So local farmer A charges $2.00 for his eggs. But his poor management practices means they aren't good to eat.

Remote farmer B charges the same price but he's a better farmer.

Are you going to buy from farmer A just because he's from your area?
posted by storybored at 8:03 PM on April 17, 2007


They started with Mexico and Ireland, and keep on moving. I hear the Phillippines will be "benefiting" soon too...

Interestingly, Ireland's economic growth in the past thirty years has been phenomenal. From being a near third world country, they now have one of the highest GNP per capita figures in the world. They accomplished this in part by embracing free trade, and a low corporate tax regime. The multinationals have not moved on from Ireland. Their presence has grown and continues to grow.
posted by storybored at 8:13 PM on April 17, 2007


Buying locally - sure, right. That would mean no vegetables whatsoever for six months out of the year, no fish, no spices...

....yeah, I'll get right on it. Dumb idea thought up by people who live in warm climates.


Right... because Canada is known for warm climates. Give me a break. It doesn't mean no vegetables for six months out of the year, it means root vegetables (which store for extremely long periods of time) and canning, freezing, and otherwise preserving produce and fish (and fish can still be caught fresh in the winter). Spices can be dried and still maintain a lot of flavour. Maybe it means no baby spinach and strawberry salads in Regina in January, but with hydroponics that might not even be true.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:45 PM on April 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


amberglow,
for your #2 at least, part of it is because millions and millions of manufacturing and service jobs have gone to India, China, Singapore, etc, in search of cheaper wages and more profit. They started with Mexico and Ireland, and keep on moving. I hear the Phillippines will be "benefiting" soon too.
Um...yes? What's with the sarcastic quotes around "benefiting"? You seem to be saying that it's a bad thing that millions and millions of manufacturing and service jobs going to these places was a bad thing...which doesn't make any sense. Jobs going into countries like China and India really have helped those countries. They may not be at US-level standards of living, but I really can't see how creating jobs is a bad thing. Are you saying some types of work are inherently good and some types are inherently bad? Would it be better if millions of jobs hadn't gone to places that needed work? The others here are right, development is clearly possible. India, China, Ireland, most of South and Eastern Asia, much of Eastern Europe are doing much better than they were 30 years ago. "What differentiates the least developed from the developing?" is exactly the question to ask now, and sneering at examples of development as somehow not being good enough doesn't seem to help.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:32 PM on April 17, 2007


Buying locally - sure, right. That would mean no vegetables whatsoever for six months out of the year, no fish, no spices...

Buying locally doesn't mean buying only locally.
The explanation I read about the goals seemed to me to imply more of a "where local and remote both exist, choose local". Presumably for things that don't have a local counterpart, they're not going to simply stop selling them.
posted by nightchrome at 12:38 AM on April 18, 2007


blue_beetle: I'm loving the podcast you linked to, thanks!

eustatic writes "Your musing that the higher prices mean fewer farmers is ideological crap. I know a lot of local shrimpers in Louisiana who wouldn't have to work a second job, or would still be shrimping if we raised the price of shrimp at the fish house."

I continue to fail to understand why simple economic principles are so hard to grasp: you're contradicting yourself in the span of two sentences. Certainly, your shrimpers would love to be paid, say, 50% more for each boatload of shrimp they bring to the shore. However, as soon as the shrimp costs 50% more, a non-trivial number of people who would buy shrimp at $9.99 a pound at the supermarket instead balk at the new $14.99 a pound, and instead buy flank steak. Suddenly, a good number of your shrimpers are out of a job because no one wants to buy their product at a higher price. Was it worth it? Sure, if you're one of the ones who kept his job and can quit that second job. It becomes a problem of the microcosm versus the macrocosm, and most of the analysis I've seen on the blue (and green, there was an AskMe about this last week) just steamrolls past that as though it doesn't exist. Paying people more than the market will bear means that folks who would otherwise have jobs, suddenly don't.
posted by Mayor West at 6:21 AM on April 18, 2007


Um...yes? What's with the sarcastic quotes around "benefiting"? You seem to be saying that it's a bad thing that millions and millions of manufacturing and service jobs going to these places was a bad thing...which doesn't make any sense. Jobs going into countries like China and India really have helped those countries. They may not be at US-level standards of living, but I really can't see how creating jobs is a bad thing. Are you saying some types of work are inherently good and some types are inherently bad? Would it be better if millions of jobs hadn't gone to places that needed work?
Jobs going to those countries has hurt this country--we need work here--especially work with health benefits and as a way to lift people into the middle class. It wasn't "creating jobs" at all, but simply "moving jobs" and we don't manufacture much of anything anymore (and i'll remind you our middle class is shrinking and hurting). That's not a good thing for millions here, and it'll end up not a good thing for people there once those jobs move on--ask the (former) Maquiladora workers. Look at Mexico to see the (invisible) benefits of jobs moving there. What have they gained?

As for Ireland, many of the multinationals are looking East to the new cheaper EU entrants, and to overseas now. Watch and see them follow cheaper labor (Ireland is switching to R&D and other services--which employs far far fewer people--instead of manufacturing): ... But over the past three years, the attractively low wages found in China, India and Eastern Europe have eclipsed Ireland's financial advantages, spurring many global companies to switch allegiances and scale back or cancel their plans for Irish operations. ...
posted by amberglow at 7:13 AM on April 18, 2007


and: ... labor arbitrage—cutting costs by exploiting the availability of lower-wage workers—remains the name of the game in IT sourcing. CIOs continue to seek savings through offshore outsourcing, and the Everest Research Institute predicts those savings will continue to drive sourcing offshore for the next 30 years. Today, 73 percent of Fortune 2000 companies say offshoring is an important part of their overall growth strategy, ...
posted by amberglow at 7:22 AM on April 18, 2007


amberglow,
But you're looking at this in isolation. You can't discount government influence/mismanagement, social issues, etc. Jobs coming in to a country is a not a magic panacea that creates a golden age. What it helps do is lay the foundation for growth, a foundation that countries like India and China have used to move on to other areas of industry and service. Yes, companies will move out of Ireland to find cheaper workers, but the resources, technical base, and technology that Ireland has acquired over the past decades will leave them in a much better position to thrive than they were in before, and you can see this with the growth of local Irish ventures. The same with the rise in tech companies in India, made possible by the training and resources brought in by foreign companies. It's not a black/white all good or all bad thing, but it does help the local economies. I'd say it's a good thing that Eastern Europe has eclipsed Ireland as a place for companies to invest in, because Ireland is in a position to continue on its own, while the developing nations of Eastern Europe need an influx of knowledge and capital to help speed their development.

You bring up outsourcing, but outsourcing is not some evil thing. Of course outsourcing will continue and expand, it just makes economic sense, but it does bring benefits to where it goes. It also brings problems, but that's what we should be working on: why outsourcing worked in some places but not in others. Bad governance? Corruption? Corporate malfeasance? Those are the issues that need to be addressed and fixed. Again, you're looking at isolated examples, like Mexico. The influx of jobs didn't happen in a vacuum, and there are a number of reasons for the less-than-stellar results, just as there are reasons why other nations like Thailand have done well. Blaming the "outsourcing" bogeyman just washes away the real issues.

And finally, jobs aren't a zero-sum thing. It's not like there are X number of jobs that just circulate around the world. No, it doesn't just "move jobs around". Investing in other countries will create growth that creates more jobs there overall, as in India or China. Meanwhile here, yes, the transition will be difficult for some, but there is growth in other industries. It's not just a simplistic flow of jobs out of the US with no benefit to anyone, it just means that there will be different types of jobs.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:27 AM on April 18, 2007


... But over the past three years, the attractively low wages found in China, India and Eastern Europe have eclipsed Ireland's financial advantages, spurring many global companies to...scale back their plans for Irish operations. ...

But then the rest of that article continues:

Ireland no longer touts low costs not only because they are lower elsewhere but also because a work force's productivity and skill level are becoming more important to companies like Dell, which employs about 4,000 people in Ireland and has operated a manufacturing plant in Limerick since 1990....Executives say that Ireland's sophisticated technology infrastructure and closer cultural and linguistic links with Western multinationals often make it easier to set up an outpost there than it might be in Asia or Eastern Europe.

Translation: Ireland is successfully competing based on quality and skills rather than low cost. Those jobs that are purely cost-driven will migrate to Eastern Europe, but the high-value, high-skilled jobs will stay put.
posted by storybored at 1:12 PM on April 18, 2007


Ireland is switching to R&D and other services--which employs far far fewer people--instead of manufacturing)

On the other hand, services employment in Ireland increased
by 411,000 from 1997 to 2005, and now represents 68 percent of total employment compared to 62 percent in 1997.

It's true that a manufacturer may have more factory workers than R&D workers. But manufacturing companies themselves are forming a smaller and smaller proportion of the economy. Instead, pure service companies are going like gangbusters. It's the global move towards post-industrial information societies.

The most counter-intuitive consequence of the shift: China has lost more manufacturing jobs than the U.S.
posted by storybored at 1:28 PM on April 18, 2007


Those jobs that are purely cost-driven will migrate to Eastern Europe, but the high-value, high-skilled jobs will stay put.
I also linked to where the majority of the Fortune 2000 are making decisions not about high-value or high-skill at all, but primarily by cost.

You can't discount government influence/mismanagement, social issues, etc. Jobs coming in to a country is a not a magic panacea that creates a golden age. What it helps do is lay the foundation for growth, a foundation that countries like India and China have used to move on to other areas of industry and service. Yes, companies will move out of Ireland to find cheaper workers, but the resources, technical base, and technology that Ireland has acquired over the past decades will leave them in a much better position to thrive than they were in before, and you can see this with the growth of local Irish ventures. The same with the rise in tech companies in India, made possible by the training and resources brought in by foreign companies. It's not a black/white all good or all bad thing, but it does help the local economies. ....
So what's our excuse? Why don't we have the millions of secure middle-class jobs we used to? Why are so many people reduced to part-time, no- or low-benefit work when they used to have skilled positions that paid well and provided good benefits? Of course it's zero-sum. If a factory or call center closes in a town in the US or UK, those jobs aren't coming back, nor are there many options for most of those workers in the area. We've never had so many families without health benefits, and without being able to send their kids to college--you tell me what that portends. It's not always good for jobs to move overseas, and they are never replaced at the same levels they were--it's documented.

The whole world can't work in service jobs. If established countries lose their middle classes, and other countries gain a middle class by getting those jobs, they'll just end up like us eventually because the businesses will have to leave to go to cheaper places, repeating the cycle. This is not a healthy pattern--for anyone.
posted by amberglow at 4:06 PM on April 18, 2007


Of course it's zero-sum. If a factory or call center closes in a town in the US or UK, those jobs aren't coming back.

If you look at it close-up that is true. Those jobs are moving out. But it's not zero sum if you consider the new jobs being created here. Unemployment is at multi-year lows.

This is not to say that these changes have no negative impact. I agree it's bad when people lose their jobs. Governmental policy needs to help to retrain them for the type of jobs which are supplanting the old ones. It needs to help improve peoples' financial stability during these great waves of change.

However, there are good ways of doing this and bad ways.

If we just stop trading with other countries will all our jobs come back? Well, if you stop trading with say India and China, they also stop trading with us. These two countries buy hundreds of billions of dollars of our goods and services. Turn that off and that will really decimate the middle class.

Outsourcing itself is just the symptom of the larger tectonic shift. That article about the massive disappearance of China's manufacuring jobs indicates a dramatic contraction of the labor intensive manufacturing sector. We are no more likely to see factory jobs make a comeback, than we are to see a return in the millions of farming jobs that we had at the beginning of the 1900s.
posted by storybored at 7:10 PM on April 18, 2007


Unemployment is at multi-year lows.
It's actually not. We stopped counting many many people, and job creation has lagged behind new entrants to the workforce (150k per month avg) for most months since 2001. The new jobs also pay less (i've read 20% less on avg.) and provide fewer or no benefits. All this is fact.

This is not about stopping trading. This is about goods and services that we consume that used to be produced or disseminated here and used to provide jobs here. This is about being able to afford any goods and services at all, which fewer and fewer are now able to. That's why the local component of the Wolfville thing is so important--fair trade and other conscience laws will remain fringe upper income things forever unless things really change. Fewer people have the money to spend on goods produced under those labels because they always cost more.

And it's not just about manufacturing--the loss of the middle class is now because of service and pink- and white-collar backoffice jobs disappearing as well. We don't have any sort of "fair trade" for those things, or for many many categories of disappearing jobs and functions.

It's not us consumers who benefit from any of this at all. The vast vast majority of us don't benefit from "fair trade" goods either.
posted by amberglow at 7:37 AM on April 19, 2007


The new jobs also pay less (i've read 20% less on avg.) and provide fewer or no benefits. All this is fact.

Some jobs do pay less. On the other hand, there's also the bright side of the picture: Median incomes in Canada have risen from $50K in 2000 to $58,100 in 2004.

This is not about stopping trading.

Sorry for the misrepresentation. If i understand it correctly the proposal instead is to raise prices of goods and services to some predetermined level which is judged to be fair.

What i don't see is how this will actually benefit society in the long run because as you say:

Fewer people have the money to spend on goods produced under those labels because they always cost more.

Raising prices means a decrease in living standards. We would suddenly pay say $2/lb for potatoes rather than $1/lb. How does this make us better off? The farmer will thank us but what incentive does he have to spread the wealth? We'd be increasing corporate wealth while decreasing our relative personal wealth.
posted by storybored at 8:36 PM on April 19, 2007


Raising prices means a decrease in living standards.

I don't know if that's always true. Look at all the industries with subsidies and various sweet deals (gas, farmers, timber, steel, etc, and numerous tax breaks for corporations that produce overseas anyway, but sell here)--they either fix their prices or sell at low price because of the other breaks they get, or for gas, use all opportunities to gouge. And local farmers do spend that extra dollar in the community, so it does benefit all.

Locally-grown and produced goods shouldn't be very expensive since there's far less middle cost. Right now, places like farmer's markets and Whole Foods and stuff are very expensive to shop in--too expensive for most of us. Fair trade produce and goods also. Everyone used to be able to buy fresh produce and meats and things at low cost, and they were all local or semi-local goods for the most part (esp. here in the US). Now the lowest prices are for things made elsewhere in bulk, and usually picked/farmed/manufactured under appalling conditions and under low or no standards for health and safety, etc. People might not have had oranges and pineapples all year round, but they were able to afford most food and goods without much problem--even poor people. The pet food thing happening now is certainly going to happen with our food as well--it's just a matter of time.

We have very powerful interests propping up sweatshops and unfair conditions all over the world (see Abramoff and his sweatshop dealings, for instance), and most fair trade things don't really change that at all. Local things do.
posted by amberglow at 11:12 PM on April 19, 2007


Meanwhile, we'll have fewer and fewer people who can afford many things--fairtrade or not-- ... Princeton economist Alan Blinder, who was vice chairman of the Federal Reserve during the Clinton administration, says the number of jobs at risk of being shipped out of the country could reach 40 million over the next 10 to 20 years. That would be one out of every three service sector jobs that could be at risk. ...
posted by amberglow at 3:52 PM on April 20, 2007


The master plan, it seems, is to move perhaps 40 million high-skill American jobs to other countries. U.S. workers have not been consulted. ...

(and speaking of that article,) This is really what the trade debate is about ...-- It had little to do with tariff reductions. Even Paul Krugman, at the time a free trader, called NAFTA a 'foreign policy' agreement not a trade agreement. If NAFTA genuinely were about free trade, it would have created a free flow of goods and a free flow of labor. It did neither.
The outsourcing of jobs is not about efficiency or free trade. It's about leverage, power, secrecy and money. ...

posted by amberglow at 7:41 AM on April 21, 2007


>Raising prices means a decrease in living standards.

>>I don't know if that's always true. Look at all the industries with subsidies and various sweet deals (gas, farmers, timber, steel, etc, and numerous tax breaks for corporations that produce overseas anyway, but sell here)--they either fix their prices or sell at low price because of the other breaks they get, or for gas, use all opportunities to gouge.

Subsidies lower living standards too! Is there really a difference between the oil company subsidy and fair trade? Both are essentially artificial price supports and distort the market. Oil companies gouge the public. But so can a fair trade regime. How? Let's say farmers decide on $2/lb for potatoes. There's a new potato farming technique that lowers potato growing costs by say 20 cents a pound. What incentive does the farmer have to lower the "fair" price? What's to stop them from pocketing the savings?
posted by storybored at 1:02 PM on April 21, 2007


We have very powerful interests propping up sweatshops and unfair conditions all over the world (see Abramoff and his sweatshop dealings, for instance), and most fair trade things don't really change that at all. Local things do.

Why would someone who is local be any more virtuous than someone who's farther away? A farmer who is local to me is faraway for you and a farmer local to you is faraway to me. So I don't see how locality makes for improved virtue.
posted by storybored at 1:09 PM on April 21, 2007


Princeton economist Alan Blinder, who was vice chairman of the Federal Reserve during the Clinton administration, says the number of jobs at risk of being shipped out of the country could reach 40 million over the next 10 to 20 years.

But how many *new* jobs will be created by the demand for Western goods and services from the rising middle classes in Asia?

Those 500 million new members of the middle class in China plus the millions of others from India are going to buy plenty of things from the West. Some areas that will likely explode are:

* education (a billion people want to learn English, thousands want access and will pay for the advanced education and training programs in North American schools)

* there's going to be a huge upsurge in North American tourism as Asians scramble to get away from their supercrowded cities. If 10% of the middle class in Asia decide on a $2000 North American vacation, we're talking 100,000,000 trips a year that would inject $200 billion a year alone into N.A. economies.

* high tech and engineering services. Outsourcing affects the low end of the value chain, the best jobs stay put. North America is still tops in software, aeronautics, and plain old engineering...Asian economic growth will increase demand for all of these and more.

* natural resources - the mining industries are having their best years because of the infrastructure being built at breakneck speed - roads, rail, airports, office complexes, harbors...

* other stuff: information services - the West leads the world in high quality informational goods & services - everything from vanilla news and analysis to creative goods like bestselling books and movies; then there's luxury goods (Canadian ice wine!) and custom design services....
posted by storybored at 1:41 PM on April 21, 2007


Is there really a difference between the oil company subsidy and fair trade? Both are essentially artificial price supports and distort the market.
No. One is an official government action that has the force of that govt behind it, and the other is very small-scale, voluntary, and pretty much unaccountable, even to see whether the fair trade rules are being followed. They really could be selling anything under a fair trade label, and no one would know.


Why would someone who is local be any more virtuous than someone who's farther away?

We know what the labor and health and safety laws are for our countries. We also know that there are mechanisms in place to punish criminals and price-gougers.

* education-- not a viable option for millions of Americans as a job or career, nor is it high-paying--and most Asians will learn English over there, not here. Our universities have quotas on foreign students too (and domestic Asians as well).
* a huge upsurge in North American tourism--very very lowpaying and seasonal jobs there--not a viable option if you want/need a vibrant middle class.
Outsourcing affects the low end of the value chain, the best jobs stay put. -- This is not true at all anymore--any job done with numbers, or a computer, etc, can be done elsewhere for less money.
* natural resources ---We are sending most of that overseas to all plants already there. Even US companies like Boeing and car plants send the raw materials elsewhere, then get parts from all over the world. In the US, we don't have infrastructure being built or fixed for the most part at all--it's being privatized instead. These industries also are overstaffed and sporadic for jobs from loggers to construction to maintenance.
information services --- all going overseas--printing already is overseas for the most part for books. Printing, Production, and even Design, Proofing, Web stuff, coding, backend information stuff, etc---all going overseas or there already. What's left is also not enough to support a middle class--We can't be a nation of authors, producers, directors and actors. Animation has been overseas for ages, with just small creative staffs here working. Anything that can be done over a networked connection is going to leave they say, if it hasn't already.

Luxury locally-made goods are just that--luxuries--they won't support a middle class either.
posted by amberglow at 10:24 AM on April 22, 2007


The Establishment Rethinks Globalization--... Gomory watched in awe as Japan and other Asian nations captured high-tech industrial sectors in which US companies held commanding advantage. IBM invented the disk drive, then dropped out of the disk-drive business, unable to compete profitably. Gomory marveled at Singapore, a tiny city-state, as it lured American manufacturers with low-wage labor, capital subsidies and tax breaks. The US companies turned Singapore into a global center for semiconductor production.

"It was an unforgettable transformation," Gomory remembers. "And it was pretty frightening.

... This works for both sides: the American company gets profits, the host country gets GDP. However, there is another effect beyond the benefits for those two parties--high-value-added jobs leave the U.S."

China and India, he observes, are now doing this on a large scale. Microsoft and Google opened rival research centers in Beijing. Intel announced a new, $2.5 billion semiconductor plant that will make it one of China's largest foreign investors. China's industrial transformation is no longer about making shirts and shoes, as some free-trade cheerleaders still seem to believe. It is about capturing the most advanced processes and products....

the trading partners enter a "zone of conflict" if the poor nation develops greater capabilities and assumes the production of more advanced goods. Then, the authors explain, "the newly developing partner becomes harmful to the more industrialized country." The firm's self-interested success "can constitute an actual loss of national income for the company's home country." ...

"The situation today is that the companies have discovered that using modern technology they can do all that overseas and pay less for labor and then import product and services back into the United States. So what we're doing now is competing shovel to shovel. The people in many countries are being equipped with as good a shovel or backhoe as our people have. Very often we are helping them make the transition. We're making it person-to-person competition, which it never was before and which we cannot win. Because their people will be paid a third, a quarter of what our people are paid. And it's unreasonable to think you can educate our people so well that they can produce four times as much in the United States." ...

If nothing changes in how globalization currently works, Americans will be increasingly exposed to downward pressure on incomes and living standards. ...

I ask Gomory what he would say to those who believe this is a just outcome: Americans become less rich, others in the world become less poor. That might be "a reasonable personal choice," he agrees. "But that isn't what the people in this country are being told. No one has said to us: 'You're probably a little too rich and these other folks are a little too poor. Why don't we even it out?' Instead, what we usually hear is: 'It's going to be good for everyone. In the long run we're going to get richer with globalization.'" ...

posted by amberglow at 10:31 AM on April 22, 2007


Also, looking to the future, there's now no reason for any inventor or idea person to execute that idea here at all--they can immediately go to where the fabricators are--overseas--and just import the finished "next big thing" here to sell (or do as car and computer plants do--manufacture all the various parts and elements elsewhere, and just assemble here.)

It would be stupid to set up plants here at home for a future technology or advance, since we don't have the industrial base anymore. It's cheaper to go overseas too, so a fabulous new energy thing or labor-saving product or even a new online service can be done all elsewhere.

There aren't any big creative future things coming that will help, but we know that millions more jobs will disappear for certain.
posted by amberglow at 10:39 AM on April 22, 2007


It was an unforgettable transformation," Gomory remembers. "And it was pretty frightening."

Isn't this ironic? Gomory is talking about the "frightening" rise of South Korea and the other Asian tigers in the 1980s. In the twenty years between 1980 and 2000, the 60 million people in South Korea transformed themselves into a first-world country, along with Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

And yet did 60 million people fall out of the middle class in the U.S. as a result of S. Korea's rise? This is a critical point. Why didn't they? If Gomory is correct, why didn't we lose all our high-value jobs when South Korea emerged as an industrial giant or when Japan (200 million people) took leadership in consumer electronics and automotives? Add up the number of people who joined the middle class in the Asian tigers and it outnumbers the entire population of the US. By Gomory's zero-sum thinking, the US should even now be a third world country. But it isn't.

This is not true at all anymore--any job done with numbers, or a computer, etc, can be done elsewhere for less money.

Some software jobs will go, but most won't. I used to be in software myself and most of my friends still are. They're still employed and getting raises. Why? Because high-value corporate software jobs require heavy face-to-face time.

Indeed the rhetoric about software jobs being doomed in North America is causing a huge problem. Not enough people are getting computer science degrees. There's a shortage of good software people.

When Microsoft and Google opened their shops in India, why didn't they close down their North American operations? Why would they instead be hiring more people here at such high cost? (If you add it up, Google is looking to hire over 1200 people in the U.S. right now).
posted by storybored at 3:12 PM on April 22, 2007


Just out of curiosity I wanted to see what actually happened to the U.S. economy during the rise of the Asian Tigers during the 1980s. The answer: It almost doubled in size (even after factoring in inflation)
posted by storybored at 3:41 PM on April 22, 2007


he's not just talking about the 80s--he's talking about now. High-value jobs are disappearing fast--they're going there, and that hurts us here.
posted by amberglow at 4:01 PM on April 22, 2007


he's not just talking about the 80s

Yes, but what I'm saying is that the rise of South Korea is a historic example of what happened when high-value jobs moved away from North America. The result was a bigger North American economy not a smaller one.

If the movement of high value jobs in the 80s-00s did not hurt us overall, but instead doubled our economy, why does he think that this time it will be different?
posted by storybored at 5:20 PM on April 22, 2007


Yes, but what I'm saying is that the rise of South Korea is a historic example of what happened when high-value jobs moved away from North America. The result was a bigger North American economy not a smaller one.
Because the boom in our economy was not because of that at all in any way, and the impact of millions of jobs going overseas hadn't been felt all over, except in localities that lost their plants/factories. We didn't have NAFTA, for instance, until the mid 90s.

Now we have no manufacturing base anymore and we are losing middle-class and office and white-collar (formerly considered "safe") jobs. It's hitting every city, suburb and exurb. It's too big and it's too spread amongst our classes to ignore. It's not just that plant in Kentucky anymore that used to make textiles, or that parts manufacturer in Michigan.
posted by amberglow at 2:51 PM on April 23, 2007


And wages and standards of living have not gone up for the vast majority of Americans--not since the 70s. We haven't been doing better, for the most part.
posted by amberglow at 2:53 PM on April 23, 2007


I'll add one more thing--we need 150,000 new jobs every single month just to accomodate all the people entering the workforce. We haven't been meeting that since Bush got in, and we've been losing tons of jobs to offshoring besides. Read what that guy says about 40 million jobs disappearing, and figure out what happens. You don't decimate this country to help other countries---it's insane.
posted by amberglow at 2:55 PM on April 23, 2007


Because the boom in our economy was not because of that at all in any way

Not in any even tiny way? Not even because American exports to Asia during this period soared?

South Korea and the emergence of the Asian dragons is solid proof that free trade is not a zero sum game. Wealth creation in Asia did not result in an aggregate wealth deficit anywhere else in the world. Why is this ignored in the debate?

Curiously enough I do believe there is going to be serious job losses in the next few years, and even more than the 40 million that article's talking about. But it's not because of outsourcing or because of free trade, it's going to come from the collapse of the speculative bubbles in real-esate in the U.S. and the financial markets in China.

But of course, trade will be blamed and what will happen is that protectionist legislation will be passed which will make the situation even worse.
posted by storybored at 4:44 PM on April 24, 2007


Why is this ignored in the debate?

After thinking about it, i believe it is because this is a fear driven issue. The operative word in Gomory's article is that change is "pretty frightening". Fear makes facts take a back seat. This wouldn't be necessarily a bad thing, except that the things that people do in reaction to fear, can precipitate conditions that are worse than those originally feared.
posted by storybored at 4:56 PM on April 24, 2007


it's not a fear-driven issue; it's a greed-driven issue.

The massive Reagan tax cuts and social spending cuts and wholesale reduction in the highest tax rates (along with elimination of taxes on many categories altogether, like investment things and capital gains) in the 80s were far more likely the triggers for the boom, and that boom never "trickled down" to reach the majority of us at all and in fact did the opposite (it also ended fast, in 87). The growth in the mid 90s did finally reach many more people but the systems had already been put into place to enrich the rich far far more.

Now we have far more limited social mobility, far more limited college attendance among the poor, and far fewer opportunities to succeed. The gains during Clinton are gone, and we're back to that Reagan greed model. We have trillions of our money being privatized and given to cronies and other wealthy and private individuals (see Iraq, for instance, and faith-based funding, etc).

If millions and millions of jobs are to disappear and go overseas, that's not fear nor protectionism--it's current and coming reality that needs to be dealt with and fought against so that we have the opportunity to do even as well as our parents, let alone any better than they did.
posted by amberglow at 7:07 AM on April 25, 2007


it's not a fear-driven issue; it's a greed-driven issue.

By "issue" I was referring to the discussion about whether trade is zero-sum or not. Whenever people talk about free-trade it seems the positive sides of trade don't seem to get mentioned. So either they believe that there are none (which appears to contradict the facts) or they are deliberately or unconsciously ignoring it.

Now we have far more limited social mobility, far more limited college attendance among the poor, and far fewer opportunities to succeed.

I agree, the trend in past five years has been especially bad. But is this the result of trade or is it the result of foolish domestic policy?

Social mobility in Ireland, and in the Nordic countries has not suffered even as economic growth has been healthy. They embraced trade and lower corporate tax rates *but* they have high personal tax rates to fund social spending.
posted by storybored at 1:12 PM on April 25, 2007


Whenever people talk about free-trade it seems the positive sides of trade don't seem to get mentioned. So either they believe that there are none (which appears to contradict the facts) or they are deliberately or unconsciously ignoring it.

They also leave out the continual loss of jobs here, and what that means.

I agree, the trend in past five years has been especially bad. But is this the result of trade or is it the result of foolish domestic policy?
If jobs continue to leave all the time, foolish domestic policy just compounds the pain--it's not the driver (except that no one is punished when jobs are removed from here, and corps still get all their usual subsidies even when they outsource, etc). The only reason America had a vibrant middle class at all was because we both built AND sold, etc, all here to ourselves. We had millions who produced and millions who could afford to buy, and each were the same people for the most part. Jobs didn't go away, except for the usual reasons. Jobs also had benefits and security, and if they weren't good themselves, they allowed the kids to go to college to do better. None of that is true anymore. America with only poor and rich is not a viable entity.

Ireland and Nordic countries have not seen even a fraction of the outsourcing we have, but they will, esp. Ireland. The UK has seen it, and isn't doing that well, employment-wise.

It's simple--without a thriving middle class, gainfully employed at fair wages, a country does not thrive, except for the richest, who are not dependent on wages as much.
posted by amberglow at 1:47 PM on April 25, 2007


Just one of the new deals:
Korea-U.S. Trade Deal Bad for Workers in Both Countries--... the flawed deal, which would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994,
contains no enforceable protections for core workers’ rights, and it will undermine both governments’ ability to provide affordable and high-quality public and social services, and to protect food safety, the environment and public health.

Further, Sweeney says:
Rushing these important negotiations to meet the deadline for consideration under the current Fast Track authority virtually ensures that issues important to both countries have been railroaded through, without adequate consultation or consideration.
Alan Reuther, UAW government affairs director, told the House Ways and Means Committee a few weeks ago the deal likely will jeopardize tens of thousands of U.S. auto jobs by further opening the U.S. auto market to Korean cars while failing to address the barriers to the sale of U.S. automobiles in Korea. The United States already has a $14 billion trade deficit with South Korea, and almost $12 billion of that is in autos and auto parts.
While details of the agreement have not been made public yet, Sweeney says workers are “deeply concerned” about reports that the agreement allows South Korea to export products made in the industrial zone in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

Workers in Kaesong have no ability whatsoever to exercise their basic human rights to freedom of association, to organize and to bargain collectively. They are essentially indentured servants of the North Korean government—not allowed to collect wages directly from their South Korean employers, but paid only by the North Korean government after arbitrary and excessive deductions. ...

posted by amberglow at 6:27 PM on April 25, 2007


The only reason America had a vibrant middle class at all was because we both built AND sold, etc, all here to ourselves.

Does this mean that things would be better if we didn't trade with any countries and each country did everything themselves?

the flawed deal, which would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994

Many of these same arguments were aired here in Canada when we were debating whether to join NAFTA. We were going to lose control over our culture to you Americans :). We were going to have to give up our public health care, our social safety nets because we wouldn't be able to compete. Here we are twelve years later and none of those predictions came true. Instead we've had rising employment and GNP. The head of the Canadian Auto Workers here in Canada, admitted that NAFTA was a success.
posted by storybored at 2:37 PM on April 27, 2007


It's simple--without a thriving middle class, gainfully employed at fair wages, a country does not thrive, except for the richest, who are not dependent on wages as much.

This statement would describe China before their trade and liberalization reforms! Before economic reform China had no middle class, there were workers and Party members. Trade created the middle class.

In India, the middle class did not thrive either, until the recent liberalization measures. India spent several decades trying to do everything themselves - build their own cars, their own industrial equipment. The result: products famous for inefficiency and unreliability. We can joke about bad products but to people in India it's a real hit to their living standards. Precious money is wasted, repairing and replacing shoddy goods.
posted by storybored at 2:58 PM on April 27, 2007


It's not that they shouldn't get a middle class too--it's that our middle class, which is being hurt very very badly, whether Canada's is or not, shouldn't have to suffer so that they can move up.

It's not what we signed up for, nor is what we were promised on trade. It's not good for us. It's hurting us badly more and more each year. We know why corporations love it, and we know they don't care about us. They'll follow cheaper wages all over the globe and beyond. If the business of America is business, as they say, this all hurts business.
posted by amberglow at 4:04 PM on April 27, 2007


...The U.S. economy created jobs at a fairly rapid rate in the 1990s, but without NAFTA, hundreds of thousands of full time, high wage, benefit-paying manufacturing jobs would not have been lost. It is also important to note that while the U.S. economy is generating substantial numbers of new jobs in absolute terms, the quality of the jobs created is often poor. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that the professions with the greatest expected future growth in the U.S. are cashiers, waiters and waitresses, janitors and retail clerks. These and other lower-wage service jobs are the kind that will most likely be available to workers displaced by NAFTA.

Economic surveys of dislocated workers shows that the jobs lost to NAFTA, in many cases high-paying manufacturing jobs, are, in the majority of cases, replaced by lower-paid employment. NAFTA also has had a negative effect on the wages of many Americans whose jobs have not been relocated but whose wage bargaining power with their employers is substantially lessened; ...

posted by amberglow at 4:44 PM on April 27, 2007


It's not that they shouldn't get a middle class too--it's that our middle class, which is being hurt very very badly, whether Canada's is or not, shouldn't have to suffer so that they can move up.

Are we saying that there should be absolutely no job loss?
posted by storybored at 5:00 PM on April 27, 2007


Nope. We're saying that their positive job gain is not worth it to us, who are losing jobs. We're saying that we're hurting and watching our middle class dwindle more and more. We're saying that it was jobs that created the middle class to begin with. We're saying that corporations aren't even helping themselves in the long run but hurting themselves because the jobs people end up finding after losing out to offshoring pay less and provide fewer benefits, so people end up buying less and spending less, which also hurts us all.

There's always job loss--industries change and die, people prefer other makes of goods, new industries grow and thrive, some are mismanaged or bought out or merged, etc...This is not job loss, but job exporting to import the goods and services back into the country.

Even government agencies now are doing it with paperwork and backoffice stuff, which i think should be illegal.
posted by amberglow at 5:07 PM on April 27, 2007


The U.S. Department of Labor projects that the professions with the greatest expected future growth in the U.S. are cashiers, waiters and waitresses, janitors and retail clerks.

You can see the original report here. Scroll down to chart no. 8. And indeed you'll see that cashiers, waiters, janitors and retail clerks are growth occupations. But wait! That article mysteriously left out registered nurses (projected 2nd highest growth occupatoin), post secondary teachers (projected 3rd highest growth occupation) and even computer software engineers make the list (19th on the list).

Then check out chart no. 9 which lists which job occupations will suffer the most losses. It starts with farmers, then continues in order: stock clerks and order fillers, sewing machine operators (e.g. sweatshop workers), file clerks, order clerks, mail clerks, computer operators, secretaries, press machine setters, telemarketers (the latter is good news any way you look at it) and so on. These job categories are not the high-value jobs. These are low-paying, largely mindless jobs that we're losing.
posted by storybored at 5:22 PM on April 27, 2007


They're really not only low-paying or mindless. Many millions of us would be considered "computer operators", and wouldn't appear on that list at all in other categories.

I've heard it said that if you sit in front of a computer all day to do your job, it'll be going overseas soon. That's most if not all office work.
posted by amberglow at 6:00 PM on April 27, 2007


I've heard it said that if you sit in front of a computer all day to do your job, it'll be going overseas soon. That's most if not all office work.

The Bureau of Labor disagrees (chart 6 in the link above):

Professional and related occupations will grow the fastest and add more new jobs than any other major occupational group. Over the 2004-14 period, a 21.2-percent increase in the number of professional and related jobs is projected, which translates into 6 million new jobs. Professional and related workers perform a wide variety of duties, and are employed throughout private industry and government. About three-quarters of the job growth will come from three groups of professional occupations—computer and mathematical occupations, healthcare practitioners and technical occupations, and education, training, and library occupations—which will add 4.5 million jobs combined.
posted by storybored at 6:04 PM on April 27, 2007


From there as well: Service-providing industries are expected to account for approximately 18.7 million of the 18.9 million new wage and salary jobs generated over the 2004-14 period

Compare to Information: Information. Employment in the information supersector is expected to increase by 11.6 percent, adding 364,000 jobs by 2014.

Look at the numbers within those paragraphs--only retail and service are projected to fill the vast vast majority of jobs expected.
posted by amberglow at 6:07 PM on April 27, 2007


look at Chart 7, which has Aide or Assistant as the most common part of job title in the fastest-growing sectors. and the next chart leads with Retail Sales.

None of those things are either high-paying or provide good benefits--most are in fact part-time and hourly and provide no benefits.
posted by amberglow at 6:14 PM on April 27, 2007


They're really not only low-paying or mindless. Many millions of us would be considered "computer operators", and wouldn't appear on that list at all in other categories.

The definition of computer operator is specific. and doesn't refer to those who happen to use a computer.

...if you sit in front of a computer all day to do your job, it'll be going overseas soon

.. how does this square with the fact Google is looking to hire 1500 people right this minute in the U.S.? Google's on the cutting edge of Internet technology, if anyone's going to outsource wouldn't they be the first? I haven't checked Microsoft's website but I wouldn't be surprised if they're hiring in the U.S. as well.
posted by storybored at 6:15 PM on April 27, 2007


(the high cost of entry to actual nursing and teaching and any kind of math or science or engineering job put it way out of reach for most Americans--in price of schooling if not time needed before you start earning)
posted by amberglow at 6:16 PM on April 27, 2007


Google is hiring because they're growing and very profitable. Most other very profitable companies are not hiring large numbers (Google hiring numbers are tiny, by the way, compared to layoff and offshoring announcements per year). Google's also making almost 1/2 its revenue overseas. Most of the work done here can be done there, and may well be.

... Western companies will keep shifting jobs overseas so long as they can get the same work done for less money elsewhere.
Indian companies have set up centers in other low-cost countries like Vietnam and Romania so to stay competitive despite rising salaries at home. As a result, they are hiring more people in these countries. ...
The outsourcing portfolio has also expanded over the years to increasingly include high-value services, thus enabling Indian companies to charge higher fees and partially offset the impact of a weaker dollar and increased wage costs. ...

posted by amberglow at 6:29 PM on April 27, 2007


Also, don't forget we need 150,000 jobs every single month just to accomodate new entrants into the job market. These total numbers on that site aren't much more than just that, if you multiply 150k by 12 months, and then 10 years. They don't really have jobs for those who are losing them--remember those big millions figures estimated--up to 10-40 million jobs lost to outsourcing--The govt. site only counts those they project to leave the job market altogether.)
posted by amberglow at 6:42 PM on April 27, 2007


150k x 12 months/year x 10 years = 18 million jobs needed just for new entrants into the job market.

The site only projects 18.9 million jobs that will be added by 2014
posted by amberglow at 6:45 PM on April 27, 2007


look at Chart 7, which has Aide or Assistant as the most common part of job title in the fastest-growing sectors. ..
None of those things are either high-paying or provide good benefits--most are in fact part-time and hourly and provide no benefits.


Let's take a look at the average incomes in the Top Ten fastest growing occupations: (figures from the same website, indexed here)

Home Health Aides: $10/hour.
Network systems and datacomm analysts: $60,600
Medical assistants: $24,600
Physician assistants: $69,400
Computer Software Engineer - Applications: $74,980
Physical Therapist Assistants: $37,890
Dental Hygienists: $28.05/hour ($50,490)
Computer Software Engineer- Systems $79,740
Dental assistants - $13.62/hour
Personal and Home Care Aides $8.12/hour.

Of the top 10 occupations, 5 are high middle class and are likely to have good benefits.
posted by storybored at 6:53 PM on April 27, 2007


But you can't go into those jobs directly--none of the 5 you mean. You need school and/or degrees and training and experience.

The lower-paying Aide and Assistant ones (except for Phys Asst, which I think is Doctor-light and requires much training) are the only ones that are open to those who don't have the specific degree or training.
posted by amberglow at 7:02 PM on April 27, 2007


or is that Nurse Practitioner i'm thinking of?
posted by amberglow at 7:04 PM on April 27, 2007


Most of the work done here can be done there, and may well be.

That still doesn't answer the question about why Google doesn't immediately freeze hiring here or start laying off people so that they can "get the same work done for less money". Google's been around for several years now, why didn't they just set up shop in India from the get go? If the theory is that companies all seek to reduce costs, then clearly the facts are showing the theory isn't right.

Google hiring numbers are tiny, by the way, compared to layoff and offshoring announcements per year

Certainly! Because Google is just one company. What Google does show is that you can be successful and phenomenally so, hiring U.S. software workers at salaries that are higher than those prevailing in India.

Let's take another example: Hollywood. You can make movies cheaper anywhere in the world than in L.A. And in fact Hollywood has seen a lot of outsourcing too. Nevertheless, Hollywood is still the global leader in movies. Cost isn't everything.
posted by storybored at 7:06 PM on April 27, 2007


You need school and/or degrees and training and experience.

Yes i agree! This is where domestic policy comes in. The cost of education has to be brought down so that people can get those qualifications. These stories I hear of multi-thousand dollar student debts are horrendous. It wouldn't take much to fix this. Reinstate estate taxes and raise the tax rates on the wealthy to pay for student tuitions. I'd like to see half of that Home Depot's CEO salary go to pay off some student loans!
posted by storybored at 7:10 PM on April 27, 2007


Google hires far more non-engineers than engineers or software geeks in the US. Their NY office is looking for Ad Sales people most of all--far far more than engineers or operations or anything techy. (Ad sales people also traditionally don't make much unless they produce results and revenue--it's base salary which is low, plus what they produce)

There's a giant mismatch between the current jobs people hold and the projected growth and numbers. The vast vast majority of people now working (and who will be working in 2014) are not qualified for any of the 5 high-paying jobs on that list at all.

And over 18 million of the projected new jobs are expected in service industries. Those are not Google engineer jobs. Service jobs are also most often shift work and not full-time.
posted by amberglow at 7:17 PM on April 27, 2007


Yes i agree! This is where domestic policy comes in. The cost of education has to be brought down so that people can get those qualifications.

Education costs have been outstripping the cost of living by leaps and bounds for years now, and there's no stopping that. It would take trillions in grants to laid-off workers or in grants to public institutions, which will not happen ever. We're cutting grants, as a matter of fact, and you've seen the recent loans/colleges stories, i'm sure.

It's also not a realistic option time/moneywise for most people working now.
posted by amberglow at 7:24 PM on April 27, 2007


We'd definitely need national health first, so that people could at least be more secure in that respect if they switched careers.
posted by amberglow at 7:28 PM on April 27, 2007


Yeah, the health care situation is definitely screwed up. The fact that people can go bankrupt just from falling sick.... Man, that is something terribly wrong.
posted by storybored at 7:33 PM on April 27, 2007


And because it's job-based, people don't leave jobs because of it often. And almost 50 million of us have none.
posted by amberglow at 7:41 PM on April 27, 2007


Google hires far more non-engineers than engineers or software geeks in the US. Their NY office is looking for Ad Sales people most of all--far far more than engineers or operations or anything techy

That shows that the software industry has a robust ripple effect and generates jobs in other sectors.
While they're hiring ad people in New York, in California, they're hiring three to four hundred software people...as well as 40 lawyers. Yes, there's a downside to everything :). But also they're looking for product management people, strategic development people, HR and so on. These are also service jobs.
posted by storybored at 7:44 PM on April 27, 2007


And because it's job-based, people don't leave jobs because of it often. And almost 50 million of us have none.

I didn't know that. That cries out for a fix. The Democrats could win just based on introducing some form of healthcare safety net. It really is about time.
posted by storybored at 7:47 PM on April 27, 2007


yup. The number's growing each year.

All the Dem candidates have some kind of universal health plan--some are stinky tho: using HMOs and private providers, or only for kids, or forcing employers to provide it, instead of setting up a Medicare-like system divorced from jobs and not dependent on being employed....I think whatever happens with healthcare may exacerbate the jobloss overseas stuff if it's forced on employers to provide.
posted by amberglow at 8:14 PM on April 27, 2007


We have millions who are labeled with "preexisting conditions" (everything from hay fever to heart disease) as well, who either stay in lousy jobs for the benefits or can't get covered at a new job for ages if at all.
posted by amberglow at 8:15 PM on April 27, 2007


Congress too: Does New Universal Health Care Plan Have a Chance? (a Kennedy/Dingell plan) -- ...The plan tackles the problem of the more than 46 million uninsured Americans by giving the uninsured a choice to use Medicare or the federal employees' health plan.

Everyone with a social security number would be covered for their entire lives under this plan. ...

posted by amberglow at 8:17 PM on April 27, 2007


Well hopefully it goes through. Of all the Western countries, the U.S. is by far the one who can most afford a public health scheme.
posted by storybored at 6:52 PM on April 29, 2007


The problem is that there are too many big-pocketed and big-donor interests who don't want it to happen, because their very profitable gravy trains and livelihoods are threatened by it. HMOs, Private hospitals, Pharmaceutical firms, private Insurance firms, etc...

It would need to be a Presidential Act thing. Congress won't pass anything that hurts their donors.
posted by amberglow at 7:50 PM on April 29, 2007


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