Brewed Coffee and Pool Tables

Followup from Mikoid on the outsourcing issue: “We’re not talking Nike sweatshops and backbreaking child labor.” According to Mike’s figures, salaries are pretty generous relative to the Filipino median, which is a good thing; it puts to rest my initial worries that offshore hiring is just a way to abuse cheap international labor. As for whether America should let big companies outsource those jobs, that, I grant, is for legislation, labor unions, and the free market to decide.

Now, my ambivalence on this issue turns instead towards the Philippine labor market’s own reliance on outsourced jobs from the US. Like I say above, it’s a good thing for skilled Filipino workers that these openings provide them with better working conditions, better pay, and more opportunities for advancement, but what of the Philippine economy’s already burdensome dependence on American capital; doesn’t this sink the Philippines deeper into the mire of subservience to American corporate interests? Or is this simply the natural progression of the global economy?

(And why am I blogging about this stuff? What originally got my goat was the unfair use of the stereotype of fat, whiny, donut-eating, SUV-driving Americans, not the outsourcing debate. Now I’m starting to sound like the Wall Street Journal. Must be my age showing. Next thing you know I’ll be talking about stock markets and pork bellies. Mmmm. Pork bellies.)


  1. Bam says:

    Which of you was using the strawman again? It seems to me that it was you who misrepresented Mike’s position. The only words he used were “overweight” and “decadent” but it was your brain that filled in the specifics of donuts and SUVs.

    As for the Philippine’s reliance on foreign capital, for as long as I can remember, we’ve always wanted foreign investment. I remember newspapers writing about coup d’etats in terms of whether or not they would scare away investors.

    If these folks can get paid fair recurring fees for services provided, I think that’s a pretty good way to take in the dollars. To my own non-economist ears it sounds like it could be more equitable than deals undertaken to court foreign investment in infrastructure-related projects.

    Given that the Philippines can’t compete in first world exports like semiconductors or manufactured durable goods, I think it’s great to be able to capitalize on having a white collar, English-speaking, technically proficient workforce.

  2. I just hope substantial investments come in for other industries and not just in the form of call centers. It’s turning out to be the new mcjob in the Philippines.

  3. rowster says:


    Seriously, this is really interesting stuff …. :)

  4. rowster says:

    Hmmm … whom should I cheer for? My boyfriend, or my friend of ten years …? Just kidding! ;)

    Seriously, I do see Pau’s point about the unfair characterization of all Americans as rich and leading decadent lifestyles. (I admit, I’m sometimes guilty of making that stereotype myself, and I apologize.) In fact what really does impress me about American culture is the work ethic, the knowledge that things DON’T come easy and the willingness to work three jobs to live the kind of lifestyle to which one aspires.

    But I also agree with Mike’s economics-related point. (Note: I’m not an economist either so everything I say after this springs from only a very basic understanding of global economics.) Against the wishes of many developing countries, U.S. policy HAS in the past been to insist on free trade even from countries that felt they weren’t ready for it yet. (Remember GATT?) And now that many of these developing countries ARE finally reaping the fruits of free trade and capitalism, the protectionist policies that the U.S. and other first-world countries are suddenly adopting reeks of hypocrisy and double-standard. And not just in I.T.-related fields, but also–and even more sadly–in agriculture, fishing, and other fields where the first world’s protectionist policies are hurting the people living a hand-to-mouth existence. Tsk! tsk!

  5. Jason says:

    I think it’s the natural progression of the economy. When the availability of capital and skilled labor reach critical mass then Filipino companies will spring up to compete with the foreign companies.

  6. Paulo says:

    Bam – True, true. I was reading more stereotypes into the initial stereotype than were originally stereotyped: cushy and fat and nothing more.

  7. Pumpy says:

    Check this website:

    According to sources cited by Utne, the average American or member of an industrialized countries consumes ten times more of the world’s resources than the average citizen of the Third World.

    Peter Singer adds (using more data from the UN and other sources) that all industrialized countries contribute an average of less than one percent of their earnings for financial aid to poor countries.

    It’s interesting that sports equipment companies are mentioned. According to the BBC, around 25 percent of the price of a pair of sports shoes goes to labor and materials, 25 percent to research and development, and 50 percent to marketing. (The endorsement fee given to someone like Tiger Woods is enough to pay for the daily wage of more than 10,000 Thai laborers.) Of that amount, only a few U.S. cents goes to the Filipino laborer.

    Finally, most Filipos are not white-collar workers, English-speaking, or even technically proficient. Only 60 percent of the country has sufficient electricity, and less than 15 percent of the population has access to telephones, transistor radios, television sets, or newspapers. Up to 50 percent do not even finish high school.