Many people in the west assume that outsourcing is bad for the developing countries because of all those sweetshop and environmental things. But is it really bad for the people in the developing countries?
I’ve had some experience of starvation as a kid and in my college. And I have an aunt who couldn’t go to see the doctor for a small eye surgery and had to wait for her eyes to go blind. I had many classmates who just ate pickles everyday. I had classmates who could not afford buying lunches in the school dinning hall, and had to go pick up food from the table after everyone had left. At least 10 years ago, towns in the hinterland still have no electricity. Hundreds of millions of people have to move very far to the east to work in the factory every year.
My cousins work at those sweetshop you are talking about. We always work very hard, but still cannot stuff our stomach. By working in the industry migrated from the west, we are able to make some money. Even in the eyes of the westerners, the conditions are unbearable. But we have always been working that hard. The only difference is now we can stuff our stomachs and make some money. More importantly, we can learn the new technology and management experiences, and improve our industry level.
You might wonder why we are so poor if we always work so hard. When in China, I look deeply into our own problems in our culture. But here in the west, I want to inform you that it is because of your robbery, all the wars you declared on us and the consequential unfair treaties that robbed our gold and land. All our suffering in the recent two hundred years is not something that westerners are aware of. It is actually jokes to some people.
I can understand the meaningfulness of buying local. I actually think it has very significant meaning. But the issue is then why the westerners are not willing to share the technologies with us so we can also produce a lot of things locally.
The industry needs to scale. Especially for industry that make cars, airplanes, you need a very strong industrial foundation to be able to manufacture those things. China hasn’t been able to make cars for a long time because the industrial level there was too low, and couldn’t even produce steel that has quality high enough to be used on cars. I don’t know if China can build cars now. But certainly China still cannot build airplanes. For America to switch its economy to service and knowledge oriented economy, it cannot have a broad base of manufacturing as well. It is just not possible. You need people to focus on one area. America successfully transformed to service and knowledge oriented economy, and I think the American people have benefited tremendously from it. Even the manufacturing is outsourced to China and India, America and European countries still hold most patents, which allow them to gain a large share of profit margin without having to do all the dirty work. So manufacturing job outsourcing is a strategic shift for America. Surely there are a lot of people who lost their jobs and complained about it. But it is more a problem of how people get educated. Even some people claim they like doing labor intensive manufacturing jobs, I am afraid for the majority of the people, those labor intensive manufacturing jobs are not something they would engage their whole lives in if they have a choice. The hope for the whole world, as Noam Chomsky pointed out as well, is that globally speaking we need less and less people to be directly involved in those dirty labor intensive manufacturing jobs, and the heavy load of it (if we still have to do some) can be more shared labor and done in a more ad-hoc way.
You can also ask Indians and people from other developing countries. See what they will tell you.