Improving technology, lower trade barriers and strong low-wage competition from abroad threaten the high-paying jobs of American white-collar workers, industry and government officials told lawmakers yesterday.
“Engineers, accountants, architects, programmers and other high-skilled professionals are learning quickly that someone equally or more qualified than they are, are taking their jobs for far less money both here in the U.S. and half-way around the world,” said Rep. Donald A. Manzullo, Illinois Republican and chairman of the House Small Business Committee.
Mr. Manzullo called a committee hearing to examine the loss of white-collar jobs as major U.S. corporations such as General Electric and Oracle shift high-end work overseas.
The trend would parallel already-painful blue-collar job losses.
American manufacturers have shed more than 2.6 million jobs in the past three years.
Over the next 12 years, 3.3 million white-collar jobs and about $136 billion in wages will follow, shifting to other nations, Mr. Manzullo said, citing research from Forrester Research, which analyzes tech-industry trends.
“The [outsourcing] trend is gaining momentum by the day,” said Ron Hira, chairman of the research and development policy committee for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a professional association.
China, India, the Philippines and other countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America are able to fill the white-collar jobs because workers are paid less, are well-educated, and are close to manufacturing facilities that have already moved offshore. Further, some host countries offer fewer regulations.
Technology such as broadband Internet allows offshore facilities to stay in real-time contact with U.S.-based headquarters.
While professionals are alarmed, the impact on the U.S. economy is unclear. Bruce Mehlman, assistant secretary for technology policy at the U.S. Commerce Department, noted that companies are able to reduce costs and focus on core business by outsourcing, and that trade in information-technology services has benefited the United States.
The overall economic situation — the loss of jobs fueled by new millennium preparations, the bursting Internet bubble, a slowdown in corporate investment and other setbacks — also has hurt the job market, he noted.
“It’s difficult to precisely separate American job losses due to this post-bubble business cycle from slower job growth resulting from global competition or offshoring of work,” Mr. Mehlman said.
But he conceded that growing competition is having an impact on wages and workers.
“One thing we already know is that U.S. workers and employers are going to face unprecedented competition going forward,” Mr. Mehlman said.
John Challenger, chief executive of outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, said it would be futile to try to stop forces of globalization, but suggested the changes provide opportunities.
“As certain kinds of jobs dry up here, there is no reason to think that our talented work force will not redeploy their skills in new directions and endeavors,” he said.