Tuesday, August 15, 2006

30 Days: "Outsourcing," The Indian Perspective (Part 2 of 2)

The TV show 30 Days is typically aimed at dispelling some misconceptions one person has about some other group of people. One nice feature of the “Outsourcing” episode is that it showed not just what outsourced jobs mean for Indians, but also how Indians view Americans and American jobs.

If you are not familiar with Morgan Spurlock’s show 30 Days, be sure to read the previous entry about the “Outsourcing” episode featuring American Chris Jobin living with a family in Bangalore for a month and working in a call center.

On Chris’s first day in the call center training program, he feels compelled to let the gentleman in the seat next to him know that his job was outsourced to India. As he explains to his new friend that he is currently unemployed, his friend responds: “I thought that if they lose their job, they’re going to get another job. I never knew that they were unemployed or something. I mean it’s really out of my mind. I can’t imagine Americans, I can’t believe that you don’t have a job. You’re an American.”

The point of this exchange, and a point that is made in other conversations Chris has with his host family, is that Indians working in business processing operations (e.g., call centers) do not think of themselves as taking away jobs from Americans. And even if they are in some way aware of Americans losing jobs to cheaper Indian workers, the assumption is that the unlucky Americans will find other jobs.

Does Chris explode this myth for his Indian friends? Not exactly. Why? Perhaps because it is not really a myth. Americans who lose their jobs to outsourcing may not find other jobs immediately. But because most of the jobs lost to outsourcing are held by educated professionals, the chances are they will find other work. In the meantime, most of them have a safety net. Sure, Chris had to sell some stock to pay his bills, and if didn’t find a job soon he wasn’t sure how he’d be paying future bills. But he had a family that could support him in the meantime. It’s also possible that Chris might have to wind up settling for a job for which he is overqualified (and for which he would most likely feel underpaid). But aren’t these insignificant sacrifices in the bigger scheme of things?

He might even have some health care coverage held over from his previous job. What a far cry his life is from an Indian who lives on the margin, without health care or even adequate housing. Chris realized this by the end of the episode, and expressed a genuine sense of gratitude that he had the chance to start his life over.

My point is that there is something valuable to be learned from the Indian perspective. When you realize the stereotype many Indians hold of America as the land of abundance, and then really reflect on what that means and all that we take for granted, you realize that for once the stereotype holds true.

Technorati tags: , ,

No comments: