RIT Professor Ron Hira Publishes Book on Offshore Outsourcing
April 25, 2005
by Susan Gawlowicz
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Offshore outsourcing of American jobs is reshaping the future of the United States workforce. In his new book, Outsourcing America: What’s Behind Our National Crisis and How We Can Reclaim American Jobs, Ron Hira seeks to give readers a clear understanding of the phenomena that is exporting highly skilled jobs to other countries.
“One of the reasons we wrote the book is because there is a real hunger for objective information on outsourcing,” says Hira, assistant professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, who co-wrote the book with brother Anil Hira, a professor of political science and Latin American studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Colombia.
A national expert on the issue, Ron has twice testified before congress on the implications of outsourcing and has given more than 60 invited talks on the topic. Anil provides insights into the larger trends of globalization and how developing countries attract high-technology industries and high-skill jobs.
The authors see the phenomena increasing, with more types of jobs moving overseas and lowered wages for Americans with “tradable” occupations. They note that higher education does not inoculate workers from their jobs being outsourced. Still, they regard outsourcing as neither entirely good nor bad, rejecting the simplistic black-and-white argument espoused by corporate lobbyists that divides proponents and critics into two camps. Corporations are acting rationally by trying to lower costs, the authors explain, but so are workers who know that if their jobs are outsourced they cannot find equivalent work.
Ron is critical of corporate America for not being “more open and honest about what jobs they are moving and how many” and the government for being slow to respond. “This veil of secrecy creates all kinds of practical problems for educators and workers. If you knew what kinds of jobs were going to stay, then you’d train for them. Right now, no one except the corporate leaders know what kind of jobs are staying and they aren’t talking.”
“There has been no policy response in large part because corporations have a disproportionate influence on the policy process,” Ron says.
Exporting research and development may threaten national security in the future, he warns.
“Our ace in the hole is supposed to be innovation,” he says. “The reality is that research and development is being outsourced. That undercuts assumptions being made that outsourcing is all good.”
The authors recommend a number of policy changes that the government needs to do “to emphasize the positive about outsourcing and mitigate the negative,” such as:
- Acknowledge the problems of outsourcing and encouraging national dialogue about it
- Collect reliable and objective data about the numbers and types of outsourced jobs and the reemployment outcomes for displaced workers
- Fix the tax code and extend trade adjustment assistance to people who lose jobs to outsourcing in the computer software and other services fields. Right now only manufacturing workers qualify for assistance.
- Reform the education system to include lifelong learning
- Give American workers a voice in economic and trade policy development
- Re-assert American technological leadership by implementing new policies
A talk and book signing will be held from 4 to 6 p.m., May 3, in Webb Auditorium in the
James E. Booth Building on the RIT campus. For more information, contact Debbie Steene at 585-475-5291.