Shipping manufacturing jobs overseas has been an issue faced by blue collar workers for over a generation. As China started to revamp its economy in the mid 70s, we saw a concerted effort to leverage a cheap labor force and invite the world’s leading manufacturers. In order for this master stroke to work though, you need willing partners, and China found partners in spades. An American corporate culture hungry to cut costs and increase profits, and an American consumer eager for the latest products at the cheapest prices.
It is only now that we see the cost of Chinese labor starting to rise, and American companies rethinking how and where they will manufacture goods. US corporations are also not too happy that the Chinese government strictly limits access to the Chinese consumer market, and also has been conducting corporate espionage and stealing manufacturing and design secrets to foster their own industries.
About 10 years ago, as the internet grew in importance, quality and speed, the idea to outsource other work began to take hold. You no longer needed to be a large corporation to outsource labor. In this new, interconnected world, you could be a small business or even an individual entrepreneur and look overseas to find cheap solutions. Need a logo? Need a website or social media pages? Need something translated, edited or even written? All of these and much more can be found, bid on and awarded to any number of people across the globe.
It is in this environment that graduates walk into the work force. Sales, marketing and creative departments can all be supplemented with overseas work for a fraction of the cost. Even lawyers are facing competition for outsourced lawyers in India. Aside from the fact that the number of people needed goes down, wages are forced to stagnate, in order to compete with the overseas workers, who can work for a fraction of the price.
Eastern Europe is the place to go for good developers. The Philippines are good for call centers. India and Pakistan are good places to find data entry workers. China is still the leader in manufacturing but is making inroads into creative and strategy. The US worker no longer has to worry only about fellow citizens, they have to be concerned about fellow global citizens trying to convince people to give them a chance.
So how today’s Millennial live, work and thrive in this landscape? The final chapter has not been written but there are things that can and should be done to stay ahead. Put down time killing games and apps. They are akin to empty calories. We live in a world where books, videos and courses can be found online, at very little cost. Keep your skills honed. Always learn the new tools and techniques coming out. Be better and stay hungry.
Outsourcing manufacturing is not going away. Outsourcing simple work, menial tasks is here and increasing. The next step is the outsourcing, to a degree, of deeper thinking, strategy, sales and marketing, legal and accounting. It may take time but this shift is occurring and in a global world, the US worker must have a global mindset. Stay focused, stay sharp and stay hungry, because there are millions of workers looking for a shot.