30 Days: Outsourcing
(S02E02) I think a better title for this episode would be "Outsourcing--Where's the Outrage?"
As we all know, many jobs in the United States, mostly in the computer programming and telemarketing sectors, have been outsourced to foreign companies, mainly to India. Outsourcing continues to be a hot topic in this country, and I think it would be safe to say that the majority of American workers abhor the idea of an American-based company outsourcing American jobs to another country in order to save on labor costs and increase their own profits. I'm sure there are plenty of people who say outsourcing is a good thing, but I haven't been able to find them.
In any event, the story focuses on Chris, a 37-year-old programmer from New York who lost his job a while back when it was outsourced to India. Things haven't been going well for him--bills are piling up, he's had to tap his savings to make ends meet, and on top of that he and his girlfriend just had a baby boy, so that makes it even more complicated.
To see how the other half lives, Chris accepts the opportunity to spend 30 days in India with a host family of which a couple of them work for a company that does outsourcing work for an American firm. After Chris takes a 23-hour flight (!) to India, he goes to Bangalore, the "outsourcing capital of the world." He's struck by the number of shiny new office buildings rising above some of the worst poverty you could imagine.
He goes to the house where he is to live, and two of the brothers work for an outsourcing company. One (Shashi) is a programmer, the other (Ravi) is a call center manager. Ravi's wife Soni takes care of the house where the extended family lives, but she is dreaming of working and making something of her life other than serving meals and cleaning the house.
Chris manages to get a job at a call center after going through extensive training, such as learning to converse with Americans over the phone. (Imagine that!) It turns out that call center jobs in India are considered very prestigious--an employee can make about $1,200 a month with incentives. Chris makes the point that in this country, telemarketers aren't looked upon very highly and that those jobs aren't held in very high esteem.
We also get a good look at the economic and social conditions in India. Although there are many more jobs coming to the country, there is still quite a large chasm between the haves and the have-nots. A quite vivid example is a man who is the manager of the call center's janitorial staff of over 60 who lives in near squalor in Bangalore.
Chris seems to be resigned to the fact that jobs are going to be outsourced to India and other countries no matter what, but my thought was how come he isn't more angry about his own situation? Here's a guy who had a good job and was able to provide for himself and then suddenly he's left with nothing and the millionaires who ran his company or able to inflate their bottom lines? I guess I expected him to be more confrontational than he actually was.
After seeing the city shut down after a riot over a famous actor's suspicious death, he learns that American-based businesses lost millions of dollars because of it, and he surmised that the business leaders will not stand for such a thing. However, they're saving so much money by outsourcing that it seems they can handle these hits on occasion.
At the end, Chris feels that Indians have it much tougher than us, but he adds that for him, there is no replacement for being in America. He returns home, but we never find out whether he's acquired another job or what his life situation is like now. I'm certainly curious, and I'm sure others who watched the episode are wondering that as well.