Report offers tips to protect your job from offshoring

Faced with increasing use of offshoring, IT workers in developed countries must learn about other cultures to hang on to their jobs.

As more and more IT functions are moved "offshore" to developing countries, there are still ways for IT workers in developed countries to improve their chances of staying employed, according to a report from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Savvy students and IT workers already know they should obtain a strong foundational education, learn the technologies used in the global software industry and keep those skills up to date throughout their career if they want to keep their jobs.

But as an increasing number of IT functions -- from call center operations to fundamental research -- are moved offshore, workers in developed countries need to adopt other strategies if they want to remain employed in the long term, according to the ACM, an international association of scientists, academics and other professionals involved in advancing IT.

Developing good teamwork and communication skills, becoming familiar with other cultures, and choosing work in industries and occupations less likely to be automated or sent to a low-wage country are all essential in the long run, the ACM's Job Migration Task Force said this week in a new report entitled "Globalization and Offshoring of Software."

One surprising conclusion of the report is that it's not just lower-skilled jobs that are moving offshore: high-level research is also moving from Europe and the U.S. to India and China, as improvements in graduate education systems in those countries increase the number of qualified researchers.

While it's clear that the trend for offshoring is growing, it's hard to find reliable data about the number of jobs offshored to developing countries, and the number of resulting jobs lost in developed countries, the ACM said.

In the U.S., job data supplied by the federal government is "not very helpful," the ACM said, with consulting firms supplying most of the available information. These consultants indicate that offshoring may affect between 12 million and 14 million jobs in the U.S., with annual losses totalling between 200,000 and 300,000. However, not all of these are IT jobs: call centers and business processes that make heavy use of IT may also be offshored.

Estimates put the number of U.S. companies offshoring work at around 20 percent, while the figure is just 5 percent for European businesses.

The U.K. is one of the most enthusiastic offshorers, with 61 percent of large firms moving jobs overseas, compared to an average of 30 percent for the world's 1,000 largest companies. By comparison, just 15 percent of Germany's largest companies offshore work.

It's hard to draw a clear picture of the situation in other countries because "data on the rest of the world are too spotty to trust," the ACM said.

In preparing the report, the ACM said it hoped to inform its 83,000 members in the IT industry of the effect offshoring will have on their future employment. In addition to addressing the effect on individuals, the ACM also looked at prospects for nations, companies, researchers, teachers, students and politicians. The full text of the report can be found here: http://www.acm.org/globalizationreport/

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