The Economist ran an article this week about the current job picture in America, stating in essence that outsourcing of jobs to cheaper labor markets has been part of the global economy for centuries and isn’t going away, and that not many jobs are lost to it anyway. As a fan of free trade, I’m very sympathetic to this line of argument, even though the idea of job opportunities in my industry scares me at a visceral level. Indeed, I find my enthusiasm for John Edwards seeping away as he continually scapegoats free trade on the campaign trail these days. Unfortunately, the Economist’s writer betrays a lack of understanding of the IT industry when he tosses out sentences like this:
And the bulk of these exports will not be the high-flying jobs of IT consultants, but the mind-numbing functions of code-writing.
I can’t think of many people who would rather work as consultants than coders given the same amount of pay. One thing the article does correctly point out is that the best insurance for continuing American success is investment in education at all levels. The labor market is constantly changing, and if we want to continue to lead the world economically, we need the best trained and most up to date labor force in the world. Given that education in general and higher education in particular has been hit hard by budget cuts at the state level around the country, I think we’re headed in the wrong direction.