- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2005

GENEVA — Nearly a quarter of a million highly skilled, white-collar jobs in the United States — many in the information technology sector — are expected to move abroad each year between now and 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

The projected increase in outsourcing of highly skilled jobs is likely to fan political sensitivities and increase calls for protectionist measures.

“Even though there might not be a lot of [press] coverage lately, the issue is still important to tech workers nationwide,” said Lee Conrad, national coordinator at Alliance at IBM, an Endicott, N.Y., local of the Communications Workers of America union.

Mr. Conrad said workers and unions want national, state and local legislators to draft laws that would slow the high-tech job losses. One avenue would prohibit governments or their contractors from sending data-entry and similar jobs out of the country.

More than 100 bills are pending in 38 states to prohibit the use of foreign contractors by state and local governments, but the OECD, a Paris-based group of developed countries, warned that will not address the adjustment challenge posed by international outsourcing.

The agency also warns that a trade-restrictive U.S. response could backfire if trading partners retaliate.

An estimated 60,000 highly skilled, white-collar jobs — many in the information technology sector — are expected to move out of the United States every quarter between now and 2015, said Ken Heydon, deputy director of trade at the OECD.

About 50,000 highly trained workers in the 25-nation European Union are to see their jobs outsourced abroad each quarter, Mr. Heydon said.

Britain is expected to be the most affected with more than half of the losses, while Germany and France should sustain fewer job losses, the OECD said.

Mr. Heydon, the principal author of the new study, stressed that the effect was small in the context of the U.S. labor market, in which every three months more than 7 million jobs are created or lost.

“From an adjustment perspective, the number of jobs likely to migrate is small in relation to the overall movement in the U.S. labor market and to the estimated number of jobs to be created,” the report says.

Marcus Courtney, president of WashTech, a CWA local in Seattle, said that is small comfort to workers who lose jobs or see wages fall.

“Companies are trying to lower working standards across the globe by placing workers in India and China in competition with workers in the U.S.,” he said.

Research by industry groups estimate that 252,000 computer programming and computer software engineering jobs could move abroad by 2015. But at the same time, 1.15 million new IT jobs could be created by 2012 alone.

Other sectors that could be affected include customer service representatives (343,000); bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks (300,000); and office clerks (214,000).

The OECD, funded by its 30 member countries , says the challenge for any government is to secure the benefits of globalization while facilitating the re-employment of workers affected by outsourcing.

Fostering conditions that promote job creation and teach workers new skills to take up new jobs, ensuring high-quality education and nurturing a business environment that boosts productivity and spurs innovation are crucial, the report said.

Investment in employee training also can help limit the attrition rate, the study notes. For example, IBM in 2004 invested $800 million to upgrade the skills of its employees.

Jeffrey Sparshott contributed to this article.

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