How Many Jobs are “Offshorable?”

How many jobs are “offshorable?” This is the question that was asked by the 900+ members of the 2009 Harvard Business School MBA class.

Disclosure: I have an open mind about this stuff. After all, Horst Engineering has operations in Connecticut and in Sonora, Mexico.

This month’s HBS Alumni Bulletin is chock full of interesting items. It has to be the economy! Regardless, this little item in the “Of Note” section mentioned a study overseen by 17 faculty members that “found that it’s not just low-skill jobs that can be readily performed for less overseas.” The “students judged that over the next ten years, 21 to 42 percent of all U.S. jobs were potentially ‘offshorable.'”

Yikes. That makes the current exercise of stimulating our economy and attempts at job creation, seem hopeless. If we don’t make any stuff in 10 years, our standard of living is likely to continue to stagnate. That’s just my opinion. We better start preparing now. A country with local, state, and federal government as the only “value added” (I’m exaggerating) component of the economy and the only place for a safe job seems downright scary. Then again, we can probably outsource those functions too.

Sure, the MBA’s also looked at what might lead to a reversal of this trend. Could offshoring come to an end? Asian inflation? A collapse of Mexico’s economy? Skyrocketing freight (oil) costs? A major security (terrorism) situation? Other circumstance? That could be explored further, but what fun would that be? It is far more exciting to imagine the worst case scenarios.

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