Fungible Jobs and other Fallacies
from 09:00 AM to 10:15 AM
The intellectual, academic, author, analyst Vaclav Smil directs his attention to the big challenges facing society and the world at large. He has addressed (among others) a broad range of topics, from the economics of meat production/consumption, the consequences of the oil/engine economy, the catastrophic potential of anthropogenic biosphere change, and the intrinsic relationship between industrial activity and the production of a middle class. Smil suggests that Globalization's dynamic on labour, the relocation of manufacturing jobs from economies like the U.S.A. to China, Brazil and others, is not balanced by an increase in knowledge work in the U.S. because IT jobs (for example) are fungible.
Smil's contention is that IT jobs, and by extension knowledge work generally, are easily moved to lower cost locations, that they are in a sense tradable services or commodities that can be relocated, delivered and changed at the will of the owner or buyer. We can certainly agree that a whole gamut of knowledge work has undergone change in terms of how it is delivered and sourced, from front-line customer engagement, sales and support, through to back office process like medical analysis, product development, service delivery etc. However undergoing the changes and transformations necessitated by outsourcing/offshoring (O/O) entails diverse risks and uncertainties for vendors, clients, end-customers and more. A fungible good or service is easily traded, substitutable, and its value or utility is readily imparted by its purchaser/consumer. We might ask therefore: "Are People and Place fungible matter?"
I assert that utilising O/O is manifestly not like this and furthermore, that O/O as a movement or strategy carries the baggage of a number of such fallacies. However O/O can be a strength, drawing on new knowledge and capabilities that are multi-lingual, cultural, ethical, and sustainable. The fallacies are assumptions and must be addressed as risks. They can be worked through over time to achieve success however it is defined.
"Anywhere is nowhere if people and place matter."