General Motors Corp. announced in late November 2005 that it will close 9 of its United States auto manufacturing plants as well as three assembly-related plants which includes one location in Canada. Ford Motor Co. followed suit in early December 2005 announcing it is considering the shutdown of up to 8 of its U.S. manufacturing plants, including engine and assembly operations, with one in Mexico. Americans are well familiar with the downsizing, outsourcing and offshoring of the U.S. manufacturing base which has seen 2/3 of its jobs lost in the past 20 years, having been traded in for third world cheap labor. And while white-collar workers have hardly been immune from offshoring practices infiltrating boardrooms, indication this week is that the tide has changed.
Both the Intel Corp., the world’s largest computer chip manufacturer, as well as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., one of the world’s largest financial institutions and 2nd largest in the U.S., are investing in creating new jobs in India over the next few years rather than in the U.S. Different in prior offshoring scenarios, however, is that back-office jobs such as investment banking, software engineering and research and development, previously occupied by American workers, will now originate from India as well.
J.P. Morgan plans to locate 1/3 of its investment banking and support staff in Bangalore, India by the end of 2007. It will double the amount of its employees by hiring 4,500 graduates over the next two years. 3,000 of the new hires will work in investment banking with 1,500 providing support in its retail and commercial banking operations. There are presently 4,500 employees in front-office staff positions in Mumbai, India.
With only 200 on staff in India just two years ago, in order to achieve their latest goal, J.P. Morgan will hire between 300-400 graduates a month in order to have 9,000 total positions in front and back-office positions by 2008, which includes complex derivatives settlements and structured finance transactions. The remaining approximately 4,000 – 4,500 employees J.P. Morgan employs will be divided between Bournemouth, England and New York, NY, although the ratio between both countries was not disclosed.
Similarly, Intel will invest $1.1 billion in India over the next 5 years, with $800 million dedicated specifically for research and development operations and other projects including chip design, also in Bangalore, according to Chairman Craig Barrett. Although Intel will also explore expanding its manufacturing prospects in India, its present investment will largely be for more complex high-value work as opposed to just technical support and call-center jobs, which most IT firms offshore today.
Other firms following this latest trend are Cisco Systems, the world’s largest maker of internet equipment, which announced in October 2005 that it would invest $1.1 billion in India, tripling its work force to more than 4,000 from 1,400 in the next three years. It too will have research and development located in Bangalore. And it is likely that more of the banking industry will soon follow J.P. Morgan’s lead such as Goldman Sachs & Co. which may double its staff to 1,500 in Bangalore.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is expected to invest $400 million in Hyderabad, India where he plans to hire several hundred workers. Gates has been outspoken, with his statement in April 2005, citing that there were not enough U.S. college students majoring in computer science, and thus wants to expand the H1B Visa program, allowing more foreign workers to come to the U.S. But critics believe that Gates and other industry executives are not being honest in their assessments, to wit, the banking industry’s India strategy which is hiring finance graduates and not computer science graduates in expanse of their industry.
In fact, consultants such as Stefan Spohr of AT Kearney estimate that investment banks could raise their staff levels in India to as much as 20% in the next few years. Since salaries in India are 70-80% lower than in the U.S., with total costs about 40% lower than in the U.S., the trend of offshoring will no longer exist. Rather, jobs will now originate from India and totally bypass the U.S.
Disputing the fact that there are not enough quality candidates, for example, in the computing engineering field, is the change in the way in which U.S. engineers are hired. Candidates are not only competing with their peers but also with the fear that they will be replaced by either imported foreign workers or offshore workers, even after they are hired.
Companies are directly contributing to the supposed engineering shortage themselves by requiring that an applicant meet every item on a detailed list of qualifications. Transfer of like-skills is a long lost concept. With approximately 200 responses for every job listing, companies have the luxury to hold out until they get the perfect candidate, as job cuts in technology positions are up 20% in the past year, according to Challenger, Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The unemployment rate for computer programmers and engineers is higher than the national average which does not reflect those who remain unemployed in Silicon Valley as they no longer register for unemployment benefits, nor those who were forced to move on to other careers.
According to Veronique Weill, head of operations at J.P. Morgan’s investment banking division, “The quality of the people we hire is extraordinary and their level of loyalty to the company unbeatable,” when referring to the hiring of employees in India. Funny, but that’s what used to be said about American workers. Perhaps the American worker’s biggest error was requiring a decent wage for quality work done. And others would argue that maybe it was their expecting U.S. companies would prefer them over foreign labor. Tragically, greed, under the guise of a global economy was the error, committed not by U.S. workers but by U.S. CEO’s, and condoned by the U.S. government.
Copyright (c) 2005 Diane M. Grassi