I read with interest a rather lengthy and angry comment chain on this recent post from Get Rich Slowly, one of my favorite blogs. Essentially, a guest poster highlighted how she’s outsourced several things in her life that most of us do ourselves ranging from cooking to virtual assistants. I can understand how most people don’t identify with this mentality now, but I believe in 10-15 years the same article may not raise an eyebrow.
People, let’s be honest here. We all outsource parts of our lives.
If you go to Jiffy Lube, you outsource doing your own oil changes. When you get a haircut, you are outsourcing a job you could do yourself. Many people rely on landscapers to do their lawns. Two generations ago that was unheard of. Our grandparents all mowed their own lawns. Why? Because someone else can do it a) better b) cheaper or c) because you just don’t want to do it. You just take these tasks for granted now and say, “Well, that’s not really outsourcing”. Well, it is.
So, we’re all guilty as charged.
It just comes down to personal preferences. I don’t outsource much of what the author does, but I understand the perspective.
“Theory of Comparative Advantage”
It’s the way the world works. The sooner people understand it and stop resisting it, everyone would understand outsourcing is an efficient and appropriate activity in the vast majority of cases. This goes not only for personal activities, but applies to the corporate setting as well. Should the US still be in textiles and assembling circuitry? No, we outsource that to Asia as we’ve become more of an innovator/knowledge economy and shifted away from industrial manufacturing. This isn’t a welcome message to someone who lost their job to outsourcing. But this is a force that cannot be stopped. People must adjust (see How to Avoid a Layoff) and accept this evolving reality.
Regarding paying someone in a developing country 1/10 of what an American would demand for the same job, is that really any less outrageous than paying an American 10 times more to do the same job someone else could do? Seriously, if you’re paying someone in the US to perform a virtual task or a task that requires very little special training/experience that could be done anywhere in the world, you’re overpaying for no reason.
Is this exploitation?
Let’s consider the alternative – poverty, starvation, rape, genecide, slavery. These are some pretty harsh terms but look around. These are all alive and well around the world (actually, 4 of these are within the US still as well), but the more the world is “flattened” by spreading technology, opportunity, jobs, technology, etc., the more these horrific human conditions are diminished. Without stereotyping by naming countries, it is still common practice for a man to rape a 7 year old girl on her way to school with the belief that he can “transfer” his HIV condition to her and cure himself and it is still acceptable to sentence a woman to death for being raped because she dishonored her family. As women especially, but men as well, begin to earn a decent wage with the advent of virtual work and technological progress, the standard of living improves and more “western” behaviors and beliefs begin to take hold. Given that the US isn’t especially welcome in much of the world, it’s tough to argue that a transition toward a western mindset and economy isn’t beneficial to much of the world.
This isn’t exploitation. This is opportunity.
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