Outsourcing makes the world a better place
First of all may I say “Happy New Year” to all outsourcers all over the world and may you be prosperous and safe in the year ahead. Over our recent summer holidays in Australia I managed to read a book called The Price of Civilisation by Jeffrey Sachs.
It made me think about outsourcing and how jobs are moving from first world countries to developing nations like Mauritius, the Philippines, Malaysia and India. Through the prism of social justice there can be no doubt that the world has become a better place by the redistribution of wealth that outsourcing allows – notwithstanding all of the incessant and useless wars that we seem determined to fight.
One only has to look at the Philippines, previously trapped in third world poverty and now the poster child for the global contact centre industry. So much so that last year it was the second-fastest-growing nation in Asia after China and it’s incredible to see how its economy has transformed into a fairer, more equitable community due in large part to the benefits of outsourcing. The multiplier effect for the money that is brought into the country through outsourcing trickles down through the food chain so that everybody gets to share in the wealth.
We in developed first world countries have a moral responsibility to assist and develop the poorer nations so that the world becomes a fairer and better place. Outsourcing allows us to play our part.
I believe the reader would be familiar with the statistic that less than 10 per cent of the world’s population controls more than 80 per cent of the world’s resources. We have people who are hideously rich, who have more money and wealth than one person could spend in 1,000 lifetimes, yet if we are to survive as a species we have to find ways to make the level playing field a reality. We simply cannot go on the way that we have been going for the last hundred years; apart from any ethical considerations it is unsustainable and moreover we are no further advanced as a caring and civilised society.
The One Percent is a 2006 documentary about the growing wealth gap between America’s wealthy elite compared to the overall citizenry. The film’s title refers to the top one per cent of Americans in terms of wealth, who controlled 42 per cent of total financial wealth in 2004. Surely there is something wrong when such a tiny part of the global population holds sway over the vast majority of the world’s people.
One of the remarkable spectacles of the recent occupy movement was the cognitive dissonance that it caused in the minds of the ruling elites. The Wall Street bankers truly could not figure out why a ragtag group of protesters was outside their offices. It very quickly spread around the world. The elites denounced the protest as left wing radicals out to destroy the “free market” system. They complained that the protesters were simply greedy and envious, targeting duly earned incomes of the bankers. The bankers howled in protest at the hide of the protestors who had the gall to actually challenge their “God-given right” to keep all of the riches for themselves. How can CEOs earn 1,000 times the average wage and not feel some degree of shame?
Yet recent events have told a different story. Scandal by scandal the world is learning that the financial system has been rigged even more unfairly then we might have imagined. Wall Street didn’t just gamble away other people’s money. Wall Street banks broke the law, repeatedly and aggressively. The SEC has collected hundreds of millions of dollars in fines from the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America for financial misdeeds such as conspiring with hedge funds to sell toxic securities to unwitting investors. Other Wall Street misdeeds in the news recently include sordid deals with corrupt foreign officials, insider trading and massive violations of regulations.
Yet abroad we see that social democracies like Mauritius and the Philippines have found the path of global competitiveness, high employment, budget balance, and low inequality of income. They tax appropriately; spend with care, ensuring that the benefits of education technology and prosperity reach all in their societies. They show what it means to pay the price of civilisation. We see more and more countries looking for a part of social cohesion, decency and environmental sustainability and outsourcing is playing its part to make this possible – and moreover we see the balance of global economic power shifting to Asia.
Much of Sachs’ book is about the social responsibility of the rich, roughly the top one per cent of American households, who have never had it so good. They sit at the top of the heap at the same time that around 100 million Americans live in poverty or in the shadow of it. How have we allowed this to happen?
From the book: “I have no quarrel with wealth per se. Many wealthy individuals are highly creative, talented, generous and philanthropic. My quarrel is with poverty. As long as there is both widespread poverty and booming wealth at the top, and many public investments (in education, childcare, training, infrastructure, and other areas) they could reduce or end the poverty, the tax cuts for the rich are immoral and counter-productive.”
The book is also about planning ahead. I am a firm believer in the market economy, yet American prosperity in the 21st century also requires government planning, investments and clear long-term policy objectives that are based on society’s shared values.
Long-term planning goes equally against the grain in Washington today. My twenty five years of work in Asia have convinced me of the value of long-term government planning – not, of course, the kind of dead-end central planning it was in the Soviet Union, but long-term planning of public investments for quality education, modern infrastructure, secure and low-carbon energy sources, and environmental sustainability.
Two of humanity’s greatest sages – Buddha in the Eastern tradition and Aristotle in the Western tradition – counseled us wisely about humanity’s innate tendency to cause transient illusions rather than to keep our minds and lives focused on deeper, longer-term sources of well-being.
Both urged us to keep to a middle path, to cultivate moderation and virtue in our personal behaviour and attitudes despite the allures of extremes. Both urged us to look after our personal needs without forgetting our compassion towards others in society.
Both cautioned that the single-minded pursuit of wealth and consumption leads to addictions and compulsions rather than to happiness in the virtues of a life well lived. Throughout the ages, other great sages, from Confucius to Adam Smith to Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, have joined the call for moderation and compassion as the pillars of a good society.
To resist the excesses of consumerism and the obsessive pursuit of wealth is hard work, a lifetime challenge. To do so in our media age, filled with noise, distraction, and temptation, is a special challenge. We can escape our current economic illusions by creating a mindful society, one that promotes the personal virtues of self-awareness and moderation, and the civic values of compassion for others and the ability to cooperate across the divides of class, race, religion, and geography. To return to personal and civic virtue, our lost prosperity can be regained.
So my fellow global citizens, outsourcing has its part to play and I believe that outsourcing makes the world a better and fairer place.