In Defense of Outsourcing

As I've mentioned before, I've started outsourcing. A lot. Most of the outsourcing goes to an (awesome) assistant in the Philippines, who does everything from online research to document editing. She's great, and she's quite literally changed my approach to working. Although most people are merely intrigued by my hiring a remote assistant, a surprising number tell me that it's unethical, supplying one of these reasons:

Exploitation: "You're only hiring someone from because they're cheap. You're not even paying them minimum wage!"

While it's true that some people I hire are paid well below US minimum wage (you can find assistants for as little as $1.50 per hour, though mine are paid considerably more), it's hardly exploiting them. I do believe that employees should be paid a livable wage, but that means a livable wage for their country, not for the US.

It's surprising to me that so many people would complain about this, when we're all perfectly accustomed to salary adjustments based on cost of living. For example, Microsoft pays California employees 15% more for the same work than they do the Seattle employees. Likewise, they no doubt pay their India employees considerably less. Exploitative? Of course not.

Now, I'm not an expert in economics, but I would guess that, far from being exploitative, outsourcing is quite good for the target areas. You're providing the people with work. Doesn't that boost their economy? Isn't that good?

Protectionism: "What about the US? You should be hiring US workers!"

Most outsourcing-supporting respond with the following: 1) "By outsourcing to India / Philippines / another country, we can expand our company and eventually hire more Americans." I don't know in which cases this argument is true, but I can certainly say that it's been true in my case. The outsourced workers I've hired have been the reason that I've been able to generate revenue for CareerCup. It simply would not have been possible without them. This revenue, in turn, enables me to hire Americans for things that do need to be done in the US. 2) "Welcome to a global world. If you don't operate efficiently, your competitors - who may not be American - will simply out perform you." This is possibly the most compelling argument. A business has an obligation to its shareholders to operate efficiently. If it doesn't operate efficiently, another company will. And then, if that happens, how have we helped the US?

In addition to those two points, however, I'd like to make a third: 3) Why are Americans so important? Why is hiring an American inherently "better" (ethically speaking) than a hiring someone from India? Are we not all people? In fact, I could very well argue the opposite: supporting a person in a poorer country, whose children may struggle to eat or to get an education, is more ethical than hiring a comparatively wealthy American. (I'm not saying that that's true; I'm merely arguing that the reverse isn't necessarily true either.)

Suffice to say... I feel perfectly at easy with my decision to outsource. I've employed some extraordinarily talented people and rewarded them well for their work. I understand that there's an awful lot I don't understand about globalization, so perhaps someone will open my eyes to some horrible truths. Until that day, though, I will continue to use outsourced workers to build and expand new projects.