The scariest blue-collar parallel, however, is only just beginning to be felt in the white-collar world: overseas competition. Like automakers that moved production from Michigan to Mexico or textile firms that abandoned the Southeast for the Far East, service firms are now shifting jobs to cheaper locales like India and the Philippines. It’s not just call centers anymore. Indian radiologists now analyze CT scans and chest X-rays for American patients in an office park in Bangalore, not far from where Ernst & Young has 200 accountants processing U.S. tax returns. E&Y’s tax prep center in India is only 18 months old, but the company already has plans to double its size. Corporate America is quickly learning that a cubicle can be replicated overseas as easily as a shop floor can.
None of this bodes well for the jobless white-collar workers who are hoping that a more robust recovery will bring the next paycheck. The numbers of those who are searching are staggering. Of the nine million Americans out of a job, 17.4% are managers or specialty workers, according to a study of Labor Department data by Hofstra University economist Irwin Kellner. During the 1990-91 recession only 10% of that group was unemployed. Even after the much deeper recession of the early 1980s, just under 8% of unemployed workers were white collar. Sure, there are more white-collar workers today, but joblessness among them has risen faster than their share of the overall job market.
There has been considerable concern amongst the chattering classes about the declining numbers (and perhaps ‘quality’) of medschool applicants over the last two decades. The usual reasons cited are more opportunities for the profession-bound, and the relative unattractiveness of Medicine as compared with, well, any other well-compensated profession.
The above article snippet points out that if your job can be done somewhere else, cheaper, it’s gone. This isn’t news to the UAW, or textile workers, but the First World doesn’t have a monopoly on intellect or education. Notably, radiology was mentioned as a profession being outsourced (to India, in this case), and tele-radiology has been touted for years as the wave of the Xray lifestyle future (though this cautionary tale will not be heeded by most radiologists, I’m sure, who will continue to isolate and insulate themselves from the patients and physicians they serve). (I wonder about the malpractice aspects of radiology read from outside the US).
So, perhaps the lesson here is, choose a profession that cannot be done remotely, or from a chair, one where you have to be there to get it done. Medicine (with a few specialty-specific exceptions) is that profession.
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