Monthly Archives: April 2011

Implications of Outsourcing

In a sluggish economy with many Americans struggling to find jobs, we must search for the reasons behind this growing problem. Leading the issue is corporate America and the push towards outsourcing of jobs to countries like India and China where labor is cheap and readily available. With the United States and other North American countries gaining increasing dependence on countries across the globe for basic services, more and more companies leave their operations on the home front only to hire foreign employees for a fraction of the cost.

The prime offender in this travesty being Walmart, there is little that can be done to stop this global monster. With more than 8,000 stores around the world, Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, grossing more revenue than any other company and helping reduce the costs of goods by buying in bulk. However, this comes at a cost. Walmart currently imports a majority of their goods from China where labor is cheap and the incentives are high for mass production. At the expense of manufacturers based in the United States, we are now importing more goods than we export, accruing debt to countries like China.

While it might be easy to point the finger at corporate giants like Walmart, our own government is outsourcing jobs to India. When you receive a call about welfare benefits or medicare subscriptions, it’s likely that you will be talking to not a fellow countryman, but an Indian. Indians are now filing tax returns for U.S. companies as well, and the trend has been increasing in recent years as the Indian economy adapts to learn and develop to the principles of American government.

Not only is the outsourcing of jobs a concern to Americans who find themselves unemployed as a result of the movement of jobs overseas, but there are implications for those people who take the jobs in the call centers and manufacturing plants popping up all over Asia. Due to their service to North American consumers, most call center employees work throughout the night, leaving the close-knit traditional families embraced by Indian culture to take a job that offers prestige in the community. Forced to make a decision between family values or an opportunity for career advancement, many young Indian adults are put in a tough position in regards to their future life plans.

On a corporate level, outsourcing may appear to be nothing but beneficial. However, it is expensive to set up a reliable call center in a developing country. In a country where power grids are often down, it is important to bring in a phone system that will not falter in a time of need. Also adding to the expense is the buildings themselves – large, air-conditioned structures that house various workers as they go about their workday. Taking jobs out of the United States, however lucrative it might appear to corporate business CEO’s, has many detrimental effects. In America, it is likely that ex-employees will have negative perceptions towards a company who laid them off and thus will lack enthusiasm when purchasing products manufactured by that company.

Before seeking out the nearest Walmart to pick up a notebook for a project or a CD to rock out to in your car, think about the potential outsourcing involved in the product that you are buying. It is quite possible that the Dell computer you might be purchasing has a call center in India, providing technical support to users which was once a service provided on the home front. Your neighbor across the street might have very well lost their job due to your simple purchase of an iPod at Walmart.

Call me paranoid, but outsourcing is a huge problem with not nearly enough attention focused upon it. With cheap labor threatening our domestic employees, we need to take the steps needed to ensure that at least some jobs stay in the United States. Although it is incredibly difficult to avoid corporate giants like Walmart and our budgets might not always be able to support local business, it is the right thing. Be conscientious of all purchases you make and think about the implications involved when buying products.

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The Dark Side of Convenience

Not thinking twice before pulling through a late night drive-thru or checking online banking via an iPhone, we live in a culture of convenience. When things are not readily available you’re likely to encounter impatience, and we’ve grown accustomed to have things delivered to us wherever and whenever we want it. However, patience is a valuable virtue. Living in a convenience oriented culture, high stress and intensity are to be expected but should be avoided if we wish to live long and healthy lives.

In high school, a track coach regaled our team with a story of being cut off in the McDonalds drive thru. En route to his Big Mac, another emaciated driver beat him to the speaker box, barking his lengthy order to the clerk before the coach had his opportunity. Waiting an extra five seconds for his meal caused immense anger in this man and was something worthy of disclosing to those gathered in his presence. Showing his lack of pleasure with a purely convenience based service, I often wonder if he ever considered a life of scavenging without neon lit arches to light the way to the next meal.

Back in the days before everything was available at the touch of a button, people were more independent and resourceful, not relying on the varying conveniences available now. Going back to the basics would do a world of good to many and be a reality check for some. Sometimes we are far too quick to commend the conveniences we are exposed to when in reality there are consequences that need to be considered as well.

At the price of convenience comes the ability to take care of problems in a self-reliant manner. With technology and the service industry serving as the prime offenders, we have become far too dependent on the conveniences that modern society has afforded us. When planning road trips, we expect to find inexpensive hotels beside the highway, full-serve gas stations to provide us with the fuel we need to get from point A to point B, and numerous locations to provide us with snacks to engorge ourselves along the way. If we weren’t provided these services, it is highly unlikely that both national and international travel would be as popular as they are today, considering the alternative to convenience would involve a lot less luxury and relaxation than we have grown accustomed to.

Everywhere you turn, it seems that there are increasing amounts of innovative products marketed to make our everyday tasks easier and less time consuming. However, with new technology to make our lives more convenient comes the re-training and learning processes that at times are difficult for the older generations to understand. A few years ago, the gas station frequented by my father changed their payment process so that patrons paid directly at the pump, inserting cash into the same receptacle in which gas is pumped out of. Confusing for customers to grasp, those too stubborn to learn the complexities of modern technology either took their business elsewhere or were humiliated by their lack of comprehension, taking weeks to learn how to use the operating system.

While conveniences might be excellent on the surface, a closer look at the amenities now offered reveals a darker side. When things go wrong, we are left struggling to pick up the pieces, blindly searching for how we lived prior to the lives we live now with the things we have grown so used to always having. Instead of relying on the conveniences so readily available, try something different. By no means is this a suggestion of such radical behavior as catching a fish with your bare hands or aspiring to live your final days in the Alaskan wilderness a la Chris McCandless, but instead of getting frustrated when Dunkin’ Donuts is all out of onion bagels, be appreciative of the convenience provided to you.