There seems to be widespread angst, especially in India’s business circles, each time President Obama steps up his anti-outsourcing rhetoric. Our software industry was quick to respond, crying foul after President Obama’s state of the union speech in which he said, “It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.” Not to be left behind, our politicians joined the chorus of disappointment. “Protectionism ultimately does not help the country that resorts to protectionism,” lectured our Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee.
Firstly, Obama’s anti-outsourcing job campaign was directed mainly towards manufacturing jobs that have migrated to China. While anti-outsourcing legislation might certainly affect India, the impact is likely to be far greater on the manufacturing sector than on IT services. To put things in perspective, let me recount an anecdote. A friend of mine who lives in Michigan said that a man approached him while he was mowing his lawn and asked him if he could work for him as his gardener. My friend agreed, and over time, got to know him better. It turned out that this man was a middle manager at one of the big car companies. He was in his mid-forties, had worked for over twenty years for the same car company, had two school-going kids, and had been out of a job for over six months. He had joined the company fresh out of school and had worked his way up to the middle management level. In other words, he had dedicated the best years of his life to the car manufacturing industry. After over twenty years of serving the company, he was laid off along with several colleagues, and as luck would have it, there were no matching jobs available in the area.