• United States
by Steve Taylor and Larry Hettick

Offshore outsourcing raises concerns

Oct 06, 20032 mins

* VoIP makes offshore outsourcing of call centers easier, but raises issues

For the next several newsletters, we’ll look at some of the social and political issues surrounding convergence. Today, we’ll tackle the question of outsourcing a call center to an international site.

As our readers will recall, we noted that call centers can now efficiently move offshore to take advantage of cheaper labor in a foreign country. For example, we’ve observed that the starting wage for a call center attendant in India is about $125 per month. Following our observation in the call center series, one reader wrote us.

He said, “I don’t really think that anybody understands the big issue of ‘uncenters,’ off-shore programming, etc. While $125/month for a worker sounds like a deal…. the employee in the U.S. that is displaced now is unemployed or working at some fast food joint for minimum wage. That means that they cancel their cell phone and cable, don’t buy a new car, and can’t buy new clothes.”

He continues, “Eventually everybody, myself included, will be replaced offshore at a fraction of today’s domestic cost. The bummer part of that is that there won’t be anybody left to buy from Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, or The Gap because customers won’t be able to afford it. Without good-paying jobs locally… the U.S. economy is going to go down the tubes. I see one vision of the future; it disturbs me greatly.”

Our reader has a point, and we agree that this is something to be concerned about. Some will be quick to blame technology – like voice over IP – for causing the problem. But the solution is not found by running from technology. Rather, it’s time to use that same technological innovation for solving our problems and restructuring our thinking. For instance, the same technology that’s draining jobs is also capable of providing distance learning for retraining those displaced workers.

We’ll continue this discussion next time.