Norway’s Fish for Brains Trade with India (Part II: The Workers Perspective)

Previous – Part I: Background

Typical Offshoring Experiences:  In the IT and engineering sectors with respect to offshoring (which also can include outsourcing: external firms operating abroad), we often experience:

  • The vendor says yes to everything but delivers a product ripe with defects or something completely different.
  • The firm must specify to the vendor, seemingly to wit’s end, what they must do. Perhaps the onshore team could have spent the same time doing or automating the tasks themselves.
  • In the call centers, the offshore tiers end up sending the problem back to the onshore tier: at which point the customer is infuriated.
  • The vendor constantly tries to sell a new service and looking for ways to bill more hours, showing little concern for the tasks at hand.

The Boeing Dreamliner project illustrates outsourcing and offshoring gone haywire.

From Fortune Magazine (Jan 21, 2013 – Steve Denning): What Went Wrong At Boeing?

Boeing enthusiastically embraced outsourcing, both locally and internationally, as a way of lowering costs and accelerating development. The approach was intended to “reduce the 787’s development time from six to four years and development cost from $10 to $6 billion.”

The end result was the opposite. The project is billions of dollars over budget and three years behind schedule. “We spent a lot more money,” Jim Albaugh, Chief of Commercial Airplanes at Boeing, explained in January 2011, “in trying to recover than we ever would have spent if we’d tried to keep the key technologies closer to home.”

The Workers Perspective:

My background as an American of Indian origin, working in the IT sector and traveling to India over 20 times gives me a unique vantage point. Life is no easier for the any of the workers involved: neither the western locals or the foreign offshore ones.

Source: Bloomberg – Koren Shadmi

The indigenous worker constantly under attack: The work culture in America and soon in Norway is becoming as such: when applying for a job in your home country, you now must compete not only with those in your home country but also those from abroad, especially from India, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. Even after getting the job, you have the spectre of layoff looming over you as management looks for ways to cut costs through outsourcing. You end up working a lot of unpaid overtime, including weekends and holidays to remain in good graces with your boss. It becomes very difficult to plan your life: get married, buy a house and raise a family – the American dream for sure and perhaps the Norwegian one as well. Anxiety, depression, health issues and the other demons of uncertainty take over.

The foreign worker seeking greater opportunities: Perhaps, the offshore workers who come to work onsite may have it a little better. It’s all upside for them, earning more and getting to travel abroad. However, they are still living in peril. Bound to their employer, reporting to an overzealous manager pressured to deliver while making a profit, the foreign IT workers are pushed to the brink while earning a meager wage. Based on personal experience, Indians usually earn around 70% of prevailing wages, working onshore. Offshore, with around 7-10 years of experience, they earn around $7,500 (NOK 65,000) per year in a reputable firm.

(Tomorrow – Part III: Life of an Indian IT Worker)

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