How Can I Help from India?

I am having some trouble getting online. There seems to be a problem with the cable company. I have to send an urgent e-mail to Turkey. I decide to use the AOL account, which I have been keeping as a contingency. I try several times, but it doesn’t go through.
It is late at night. Frustrated, I call AOL customer services. I intend to speak to a customer rep and cancel my subscription. The person at the other end of the line tries to calm me down. First he asks “How’s the weather over there?” This simply infuriates me. “Why do you ask me about the weather in New York, where are you? It’s cold, don’t you know?” I ask. The answer is surprising to me: “No, I don’t know. I am in India.” “I hope my phone bill is not fattened with this call, in addition to the $14.95 I pay to AOL every month.” I joke. The customer rep laughs and says that they don’t. After a brief chitchat about New York, I tell him what my problem is.

You can have a similar conversation every day in the US. In addition to AOL, many American giants, including American Express, 3Com, AT&T, HP, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Adobe, Bank of America and Dell Computer, outsource their customer services or technical support jobs to overseas in order to take advantage of inexpensive labor costs there. China and India are ideal for this purpose. Technology companies use the time difference between India and the US (New York is 10.5 hours behind Bangalore) and employ English speaking employees, which translate into lower expenses. On the average, a telephone operator in the US makes between $13-15 per hour, whereas same job costs $2 in India. A financial analyst in the US makes $30-35 per hour, while an Indian counterpart earns as low as $13 per hour.

In addition to American companies, British companies also use Indian customer representatives. According to a New York Times article by Saritha Rai, 150 thousand Indians started working for American companies in the past 2 years. Since the average income of these workers is $400, India attracts companies that need to give customer services around the clock. There are 1.5 million college graduates with excellent English skills in India.

During the last 3 years, 2.3 million American workers lost their jobs. 10 percent of these jobs are taken over by India. According to the research magazine Dataquest, job exports to India were 140 thousand in 2003, a 60 percent increase compared to the year before.      

Every night, CNN editor and anchorman Lou Dobbs appears on CNN and tells American people how many jobs are moving overseas. Dobbs’ reports receive mixed feedback. Some argue that since new companies have to keep their costs as low as possible in order to stay in competition, outsourcing some jobs to low-cost countries helps the American economy indirectly. Others, led by Dobbs, argue that it is wrong to outsource jobs when America is struggling with unemployment.

According to the Labor Department statistics, 500 thousand Americans lost their jobs between 1994 and 2002 because of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Studies indicate that while America exported 103 thousand jobs to other countries in 2000, it will go as high as 3.3 million in 2015. Industries affected by this trend are not limited to computer and technology. Many others, including textiles, furniture, steel and iron industries are experiencing the same challenge.

Recently the jean giant Levi’s closed down its last plant in San Antonio, Texas, highlighting the advantages of exporting jobs. The arguments spark a fundamental question: “Would you prefer living in a world with cheaper goods or in a world where everybody has a job?” Experts emphasize that at present, it is very difficult to find 100% American products in the US. People care about the function and price, not where the product is made when they purchase a Sony TV set or a Korean car. This is valid for other goods as well. Followers of this thought believe that “according to the way international trade works, if Indians or Chinese have more income, their spending will eventually benefit the US and other countries.”   

Experts in the US fear that as more computer related jobs move overseas, students studying in such fields start to change their areas. In several speeches in prominent universities such as MIT and Harvard, Bill Gates, President of Microsoft, stressed the fact that the industry needs young people. The new trend among young people is working in financial institutions on Wall Street.

According to a McKinsey study, 14 million jobs in the US face the risk of being exported overseas. Highest-risk jobs are call-center employees, computer operators and accounting services.

A 30-year Texas resident Neriman Yüce believes that the threat concerns not only American jobs, but also minorities living in this country, including the Turkish-Americans. “We left our country to build a future for our children here. If job opportunities are fading, what will our children do?” asks Ms. Yuce. She also reminds people who are planning to leave their country and come to the US: “They don’t need to come here. Very soon, unemployment here will not be different from what it is in their own country.”  

* Source: CNN

April 2004/ Issue 12
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07