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Outsourcing to India

Thanks to David on STJ for pointing out this little gem: US Republican Party outsources fund raising to India. An excerpt:

We do hope and trust here at the INQUIRER that the irony of underpaid people in Harayana helping robots to call possibly out of work Americans because of a widespread policy of corporate outsourcing is not lost on our readers

I really just don't know what to think about this. Outsourcing to India has always left me with conflicted views. On the one hand, I'm all in favor of the market setting prices appropriately. If it's more efficient for American companies to hire Indian workers to do the jobs that have been done by American workers, then that's a good business move and I support it. However, as a software developer, I've been watching my job slowly slip over to India for a few years now, leaving me with the possibility of being out of work. I certainly don't support that. Thus, I'm conflicted.

Regardless of my views, that still is a pretty ironic story. It made me chuckle.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 29th, 2003 07:14 am (UTC)
Efficiency is not all that those who advocate it would have us think. To paraphrase Chesterton: It would be more efficient to have us sleep in shifts so as to share one pair of pants.

Personally, I hope the Republicans keep up the outsourcing so that they will have a lot of explaining to do during the peak of the election cycle. It should be very entertaining.
Aug. 29th, 2003 07:37 am (UTC)
It would be more efficient to have us sleep in shifts so as to share one pair of pants.

Not necessarily, as the pants would likely need replacing more often. If two people go through one pair of pants in one month, that's exactly as efficient as one person going through one pair of pants in two months.
Aug. 29th, 2003 07:54 am (UTC)
If pants wore out faster, then production of pants could be made more regular. Which would be more efficient. Also, since we're sharing pants, we're dressing more alike and restaurants, employers and other folk who have dress codes would have an easier time. Which is also more efficient.

Isn't there an RFC about this sort of thing? If not, can we just draft one?
Aug. 29th, 2003 07:59 am (UTC)
OK. You've about convinced me. Let's start sleeping in shifts and sharing pants.
Aug. 29th, 2003 09:08 am (UTC)
I would reply to your suggestion, but I have outsourced that function to a really cheap sweatshop in South Africa. Expect the reply from them.
Aug. 29th, 2003 01:51 pm (UTC)
Um, I think the analogy doesn't work. If people shared pants, you'd need fewer pairs of pants, which ruins economy of scale.

In fact, the more pants that you need, the more efficient the pant-making process is, and the lower the costs go. Costs don't decrease linearly; for any mass-produced item the cost of item 1 is high and the cost for items 2 and on are low.

The best thing in the world for pant makers is for everyone to want lots of pants. And the more people buy pants, the cheaper the costs can go. Either the price of pants will drop (so people can buy more pairs or pants, or spend their money on non-pant items), or workers are going to get paid more money to make the pants (which they will presumably spend on stuff), or additional pant factories will need to be built (which makes lots of people lots of money), or those who make pant raw materials will get more money from selling their raw materials to the pant factory, or the guy who owns the factory will get more money, that he'll spend to buy other non-pant items which will employ those who do not make pants. Most likely, a combination of all of these things will happen.

Everyone wins.

Yay capitalism.
Aug. 29th, 2003 07:41 am (UTC)
You may remember my thoughts on the subject.

Note that I didn't bother responding to the anonymous poster who left a comment a couple of weeks later.
Aug. 29th, 2003 08:00 am (UTC)
That reminds me that Stu was getting annoyed by one of those customer hotlines he called last week... after which, he noted to me that the person who answered the phone had an interesting accent. He said next time he was going to ask what city the call center was in, and if they claimed an American city, what was in the local headlines that day. He probably takes this outsourcing more personally as he used to work in the reservations call center at American Airlines.

I have no opinion one way or the other, really. There are certain things that are stupid for an organization to outsource (its core, for example -- and certain sensitive areas). I think it's obvious that the party would be outsourcing this function no matter what, it's just a matter of who would be considered among the contractors. We need to have different words for outsourcing where it's simply contracting out particular jobs for other companies to handle vs. sending particular jobs to other countries (and companies aren't necessarily outsourcing in this case, as they can own the foreign factories, call centers, what-have-you).
Aug. 29th, 2003 08:09 am (UTC)
Call center workers aren't supposed to respond to those types of questions, for security reasons, though when I worked call center for DirectTV (in a call center owned by a 3rd party who runs call centers for most major utility, credit card, and telephone service companies), we were allowed to say that we were somewhere in the western US. But all those hedline questions are likely, if the person on the other end is a diligent worker, to get your caller hung up on (if he's overly persistent), referred to a manager, or even tagged as a potential threat.
Aug. 29th, 2003 12:35 pm (UTC)
You are assuming that the outsourced work is of the same or greater quality as American work, or that it costs sufficienty less that lower quality is acceptable.

I have heard on more than one occasion recently that the outsourced work is of sufficiently low quality as to be unacceptable; I am watching for those jobs to come back Stateside over the next few years.

Also, is it possible to have both high paying jobs and low prices for everything? I think it probably is not possible. We, as a society, have chosen both and are reaping what we have sewn.
Aug. 29th, 2003 01:40 pm (UTC)
The problem isn't how much money you make, it's how much purchasing power you have. So if you have low prices, you can survive on a lower income, or you can buy more things with the same income. It's better for everyone when you can afford to buy a second car, for example.

If you want full employment, that's easy. Just ban electricity and the internal combustion engine. We'll go back to being a 90+% agrarian society in a matter of hours and everyone will have plenty to do. We won't produce much (which will ensure high prices), but we'll spend a lot of effort to create the little we do.
Aug. 29th, 2003 01:30 pm (UTC)
I'm not too worried about outsourcing, for a couple of reasons:

1. I'm currently doing government contracting, and I don't see the US government sending those jobs overseas. But they might start valuing them a lot lower than they do right now.

2. I don't plan to be making my living as a coder, long-term. Even before outsourcing worries became the latest fad, I was worried about recent college grads. Many of them can do the same work as I do, only they want half as much money. Yes, experience is important (and I'll mention more on that in a minute), but it's hard for a manager to justify a huge difference in salary solely on experience. So I'm going to try to get into technical management, or anywhere else that seems to have less of an assembly-line future.

One of the reasons why Indian-produced code is of lower quality is simply experience. It takes time for these sorts of cultures to mature. Americans laughed at Japanese electronic and automotive products in the 1960's. By the end of the 70's, they stopped laughing. The phrase "cheap Japanese import" didn't mean much by the time I was out of elementary school in the mid-80's. Instead, it was protests and fears of the Japanese buying all the real estate in America while putting all of our semiconductor and car companies out of business. The Indian's code might suck now, but give it 10 years, and it'll sparkle.

All in all, I find it hard to get mad about the law of supply and demand. I might as well be pissed about the sunset. For a long time, there was a shortage of qualified programmers. This was quite lucrative for me. Now, there is a glut. I wish that I could make a living hacking on code and releasing shareware for a small software company, but I can't. So I'll do something else.
Sep. 3rd, 2003 12:25 pm (UTC)
RNC Denies Outsourcing
The RNC has denied outsourcing claims. Take it for what it's worth.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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