How many jobs do Indian companies have to create in the US before Lou Dobbs has to stop talking about outsourcing?
It would be easy to imagine Reno, Ohio, as the type of place that would be hit hardest by outsourcing - a small American town losing out to the invisible hand shifting jobs to places like Bangalore and Guangzhou. Instead, outsourcing is bringing the jobs to Reno. Across the street from an Army Reserve center and next to a farm, a customer-service call center hums, its 250 workers answering phones for online travel agency Expedia. The center's owner? Indian conglomerate Tata Group.
The phenomenon has a name: "insourcing," the term experts are starting to use when foreign multinationals open offices on U.S. soil and hire Americans, at a higher price, to do the very jobs they once lured overseas. In this case the center in Reno is targeted toward companies willing to pay a premium - its workers there cost up to 40 percent more than their counterparts in India - to give their U.S. customers a more culturally fluent, less frustrating 1-800 experience. (No more hearing someone read from a script ten time zones away.)
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According to the Organization for International Investment, US subsidiaries of foreign companies are responsible for more than 5 million jobs in the US. That's a relatively small percentage of the 150 million or so jobs in the US overall, but if you're one of the 5 million, you probably don't think so.
Three or four anecdotes suffice to create a panic about jobs leaving the US; will these accounts cause a sudden worry about skyrocketing wages as companies compete for scarce employees? If so, don't worry -- the American economy is awfully nimble; it takes more than a few million jobs insourced or outsourced to dent our prosperity.