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Created: May 12, 2003
Latest Update: May 12, 2003

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Site Teaching Modules Labor and the Occupational Outlook

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, May 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

This essay is based on a New York Times article on major labor issues facing us with globaliszation: More 'Can I Help You?' Jobs Migrate From U.S. to India on May 11, 2003. Backup.

For years now we have bemoaned the loss of industrial jobs, and watched as those jobs followed NAFTA and were filled by people from foreign countries where wages were significantly lower and where unions did not flourish. Relatively low-skilled manufacturing jobs led to a large extent to the crisis of joblessness in the urban ghetto. (William Julius Wilson on public policy and employment.)

This article raises new and more frightening issues of labor and employment. For some time now software computing jobs have been drifting overseas. But that has been restricted to an area that was strong in our economy. Now service jobs, those like answering telephones, taking messages, routing calls, dealing with customer service are following the manufacturing jobs.

The essence of concern here is going to be: is the corporation entitled to maximize profits (like $200 per month instead of $1000 for the telephone operator featured in the NY Times story) without considering the cost of that maximization a "cost of doing business." In other words, maybe paying living wages to US citizens is a "cost of doing business."

Notice that the young Indian woman speaks regional (accentless) English. That's quite a skill. These are jobs that require skills that Americans have, but that people from economically disadvantaged countries can gain. Where does that fit into the infrastructure of our corporate world.

Until now, the service sector has continued to grow in the US. Few manufacturing jobs, but lots of service sector jobs. Now we're talking about service sector jobs. If technology makes those jobs globally available, what does that do to our employment infrastructure.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the hottest jobs projected by the Occupational Outlook?

    Consider your own job or job aspiration. Look it up on the Occupational Outlook. Link to the questions on the right side of the page. Are any of the hottest jobs amenable to being shifted overseas? Would this affect anyone you know?

  2. Despite the terrible market losses in Internet companies, the hottest job prospects are still in the computer field. What does that mean?

    Consider that the companies themselves have not been making money and so are cutting costs. Could shifting jobs to a poor country cut costs in this area?

  3. What changes are discussed between the present and previous occupational projections that might affect us all?

    Consider "For example, farmers and farm managers, formerly in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and related occupations, now are classified as agricultural managers within management, business, and financial occupations. " What does that tell us about jobs opening for farmers? Professional skills required? What kind of professional skills? Where would you get them? From farming with Dad? Or from an agricultural college?

    Consider career paths, and that people are more content when the career path is longer so they can keep getting promotions. "Teacher assistants, formerly in administrative support, including clerical occupations, now fall under education, training, and library occupations." What might this mean to your career?

  4. I've asked these questions from the perspective of the US worker. What are the issues we would need to consider if we asked them from the perspective of the global worker?

    Consider that under the capitalistic system every country must employ its workers so they have access to the markets for their needs.