Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Did you notice the lower volume of attendees at APEX this year? For an editor, this gives us more time to interview exhibitors, conduct panels, talk to leaders in the industry, and grant awards for innovative new products and services. For those involved in shipping large pieces of equipment and flying sales staff to Las Vegas, the experience takes on a whole new atmosphere. Although crowds were thin on the show floor Denny McGuirk, president of IPC, estimated 20 to 25% down in registrations from last year those seeking an education filled up the technical sessions. Education makes employees more valuable to any company.
No one doubts that business in the U.S. has limped through a weak period. And in electronics, recent news revealed IBM’s Project Match, which offers laid-off U.S. and Canadian workers the chance to apply for jobs at the company’s India location and other areas of low-cost labor around the globe. IBM would help with visas and moving costs, but the salaries would be the same as those within these low-wage areas.
Who would jump at moving somewhere else globally to earn less? At having themselves “outsourced” along with their job? Most of us drag our feet at moving between U.S. states for increased income. Let’s face it, this is a flat year globally for most EMS providers and OEMs already. Most industry analysts project negative growth, if any. And survival can spur life changes; that is certain.
Employees working at IBM in the U.S. must have known about the Wall Street Journal’s story last month announcing that IBM planned to lay off 5,000 U.S. employees with many of the jobs being transferred to India. Foreign workers account for 71% of IBM’s nearly 400,000 employees at present, WSJ said.
If it’s a global economic change, then we already know about that. The question is, are we improving the lives of individuals by taking them away from their neighbors, families and homes only to pay them a lower wage? What would be the difference if foreign workers came to places where wages were higher, but families were distant? The problem with outsourcing employees is that all good business decisions are often poor choices for people. As people, do we raise the middle class if we lower incomes? Do we strengthen families by separating them?
As I write this, on my desk sits an invitation to teach English as a second language on a distant continent. It might be an adventure...
Gail Flower, editor-at-large