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Tuesday, Jul 16, 2024

Meeting the Challenges of Globalization Affecting the Future of Work

Commentary , John M. Eger

Globalization, according to The Economist, is one of the 10 most overused words of this decade. Phrases such as “global corporations,” “global media” and “global economy” clearly reflect the term’s popularity, but often its true meaning and implications become lost or obscured.

Nayan Chanda, editor of online newsletter Yale Global and author of “Bound Together,” says globalization means “reconnecting the human community,” an effort that began some 50,000 years ago when the earliest forms of man began to travel out of Africa to North and South America and accelerated after Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492.

Trans-Atlantic cables and satellites, however, greatly accelerated the interdependence of nations during the past hundred years.

In the past decade, it has been the worldwide spread of the Internet with its progeny the World Wide Web that has caused what New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman has called a “flat world.” Friedman dubs the latest movement “globalization 3.0.”

Now with globalization in full bloom, many countries do not like what they are witnessing. Even America, credited or blamed with starting the global trend, is beginning to see the outlines of yet another out-migration of jobs and having serious doubts.

Unlike the earlier shift of manufacturing jobs to less developed East Asian countries, the loss of the latest round of high-tech software and service jobs will have dramatic, some say devastating, impacts on America’s economic wealth and well-being.

Service Jobs Next

Twenty-five years ago, it was fashionable to blame foreign competition and cheap labor markets abroad for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States, but the pain of the loss was softened by the emergence of a new services industry.

Now, it is the high-tech and service sector jobs that are being lost.

In the last few years, a significant number , the labor unions say tens of thousands , of software and chip development and engineering jobs have been moved to India and China.

Industry stalwarts such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer announced that they, too, were either outsourcing their software development or beefing up their foreign subsidiaries in China, India, the Eastern Bloc or Russia to do the same.

In 2004, Forrester Research estimated that 3.3 million service jobs will move out of the United States in the next 15 years. More recent studies argue that we are likely to see more like 15 percent of the entire white collar work force lost to other countries in the same period.

It is clear that the pervasive spread of the Internet and the availability of similar skills abroad mean huge cost savings for corporations.

Consequently, this shift of high-tech service jobs will be a permanent feature of economic life in the 21st century.

On the positive side, some economists believe that this will improve the profits and efficiency of American corporations and set the stage for the next big growth-generating breakthrough.

But what will that be?

And will Americans be ready to fill all these new jobs?

Many, such as BusinessWeek, argue that the stage is set for the advancement of the Innovative Age, a period in which America should once again thrive and prosper because of our tolerance for dissent, respect for individual enterprise, freedom of expression and recognition that creativity and innovation is the driving force for the U.S. economy, not mass production of low-value goods and services.

No. 51 On The List

Never mind for the moment that we have slipped to No. 51 on the list of most free countries, or that we are 19th in deploying broadband communications , the new infrastructure of the new economy.

Other than BusinessWeek, the vital link between creativity and innovation is missing from most discussions; or weak or misunderstood if discussed at all.

What is top of mind, it seems, is how we change immigration laws to allow more H1-B visas.

Today, the demand for creativity has outpaced our nation’s ability to create enough workers simply to meet our needs.

But what makes someone creative? Can the community, through public art or cultural offerings, enhance the creativity of its citizens?

And if the new economy so desperately demands the creative and innovative worker and leader, what do our schools and universities need to do to attract, retain and nurture the next generation of creative and innovative people?

Sadly, we don’t know. Consequently, we don’t have an agenda. Yet it seems clear, if we don’t do something soon , we won’t have much of a future in this bold new global age.

John M. Eger, Van Deerlin chairman of communications and public policy at San Diego State University, is a member of the Envision San Diego partnership, a media forum for discussing public policy issues affecting the region.


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