Tech jobs should stay in the US, says Obama

by Editor 9/2/2008 4:35:00 PM
U.S. tech jobs should not be outsourced offshore, says presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, adding that, if elected president, he will “stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas" and "start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.”

Even though some of his points were met with skepticism, most industry insiders agree that incentives to keep IT jobs in the country are the way to go. “Incentives to keep jobs on shore, targeted at the industry, would make a lot of sense,” says Jim Harvey, partner and co-chair of the global technology and outsourcing practice group at Hunton & Williams in New York.

A comprehensive study involving 10,000 workers and HR professionals, conducted by the New York University Stern School of Business and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, was released last week. The study reveals that eight percent of IT workers in the U.S. have been displaced.

This roughly translates into 240,000 out of three million IT staff being affected by the offshoring trend.

These numbers still do not illustrate the full impact of the trend on IT professionals, thinks Ron Hira, an assistant professor at the Rochest Institute of Technology and author of Outsourcing America. He says:

“First, there are many cases when a worker or even employer doesn’t realize that they lost a job or project to an offshore outsouring firm. Second, [the study] doesn’t count the number of jobs that are created offshore in lieu of being created here. Before offshore outsourcing, those job opportunities would have been here.”

Technology industry giants, on the other hand, insist that offshoring creates jobs at U.S. firms, an argument often used to persuade the U.S. Congress to raise the H-1B cap.

Both Obama and McCain have spoken in favour of raising the cap, since the H-1B visa program makes it a lot easier for companies to offshore U.S. jobs.

Forrester Research analyst Stephanie Moore argues that Indian firms are not only competing on low cost, but also on better efficiency and increasing quality of their services.

“In case of labour-intensive industries like programming, help desks, call centres… the labour cost differential between the U.S. and countries like China, India, Philippines and other developing countries is too large to make any difference,” says Virendra Singh, a senior economist at Moody’s Economy.com, adding that the “visa regime in the U.S. is too restrictive, so companies will go wherever talent is available.”

In other words, if Obama wins the election, the success of his campaign to keep IT jobs in the U.S. remains to be seen.

Find the latest IT consulting jobs on the TopITconsultant job board.

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