One Finite Planet

One Finite Planet

Jobs in the ‘ECO’ age part1: outsourced & offshored?

Date Published:

business-video-conferencing-ariel-skelley-blend-images-gettyA friend was commenting on how her employer, a major ‘blue-chip’ employer, was transforming the workplace.  The shift in emphasis is  to less work needing to take place in the office, and more provision for people to work from home.  The direction it is heading is for people only to attend the office for scheduled meetings.  Why waste that commuting time just to sit and do the same work you can do from home?   But if you can work from home, with today’s technology, home could be anywhere.  It could be in another city or even another country.  Globalisation results in jobs moving to the most cost efficient location on the globe.   We know what happened when employers realised Call Centres and IT departments could be remote. Will this be repeat for the entire office.  Will even wall st eventually be run from Mumbai?   Or will the changes in the workplace actually save our jobs?

This post is  a journey.  Looking at current trends, analysing individual real world experiences and thinking through to where the trends are heading.  There are several significant changes taking place, and the logical conclusion will change where future office jobs are located. In cities, most non-office jobs actually naturally follow on from the location of office jobs, so the impact is on almost all of society.   What will happen will determine future lifestyle choices, sense of community, real estate prices and where people decide to live.

Analysis and conclusions:

  • What is happening already?
  • ‘Random Case Studies’: individual experiences
  • The Problem
  • Solutions
  • to be continued and conclusion to follow

What is happening already?

A quick search on ‘teleworking trends’ reveal useful statistical data. Statistical data from (among others) ‘‘ and reporter analysis from articles like
It’s Unclearly Defined, but Telecommuting Is Fast on the rise” by Alina Tugend (NY Times), and “Telecommuting Is The Future of Work” by Meghan Biro (Forbes) confirm there is a real change here, and if the trend continues the impact will be profound.
From these sources, about 50% of roles in the US are suggested as suitable for teleworking.  This trend affects work at between 30 to 45 percent of large employers with current ‘mostly work from home’ employees at around 5% of the workforce (excluding  self employed workers) and doubling every ten years.

‘Random Case Studies’:  Individual Experiences.

I am simply looking at some real world cases here.  No statistics of how many people match the profiles, but this certainly helps to determine what profiles may be out there.

1. Working From home

My first example is the discussion that started this post, and is mentioned in the introduction.  This person works from home both days, but still lives in the most expensive city in the country and makes use of extremely expensive office real estate when in the office.  However the long commute is at least halved by travelling less than half of working days and the hot desk work environment makes use of this to reduce the office cost for the company.

2. Relocation.

Another friend at the end of last year relocated to a relatively regional town from the major business centre of Sydney, while retaining her role in a Sydney based business.  She was prepared to now fly to travel to the office for meetings.  Relocating the family to, what from many perspectives, is a location offering a better lifestyle and at a lower cost.

3. The Needless  Commute

My next discussion provided a different insight.  This person also works in a bank, and works in a team where no other member of their team is in located in their same city.  All meetings for this person must be teleconferences, and for his part could equally be done his from home as the office.  In fact in this case, all his work could be from home and his employer does support working, yet he spends over an hour per day travelling to an office.  Why?  Partly because working from home is a culture shift and he has not overcome that culture shift, and partly because their are still hurdles.  The first hurdle is that his office computer set-up is multi monitor and something he does not have replicated at home. But the other hurdle is that even though the people in the office are not in his team, it is still a social experience at the office.

The Problem

Major cities have a competitiveness problem, but employment continues to migrate to the very location that makes business uncompetitive.  The trend in most western countries in recent decades is for ’employment centres’ (New York, London, Paris, Los Angeles, Sydney etc) to be the destination of a population shift. The population at these centres keeps expanding, and well beyond national population growth. This results in the cost of living in these centres rises beyond national averages, as does the cost of housing and resulting commute times.  Wages are however higher in these centres to compensate, but lifestyle suffers, and time spent commuting is growing to saturation point.  As this trend continues, organisations in these same countries continue to become less competitive.  This then becomes a problem of national competitiveness.

Most businesses in these countries (as they are mostly based in such centres) ,have higher than national average employment costs, high office rent and stressed employees who spend a far from desirable percentage of their time commuting.  This is not the formulae for a competitive business.  In an increasingly global environment for business competitiveness, these very centres exacerbate cost differentials with locating business units offshore in other countries. This creating maximum pressure to move jobs to low cost offshore centres, and that pressure continues to grow.

Solutions: Offshore Jobs vs Alternatives

Businesses are locked into continuous improvement in terms of efficiency.  The continued concentration of the population in major cities with spiralling costs forces organisations to either become less and less competitive or find alternatives to this trend. The possible alternatives are listed here.

Offshore Competition.

In an increasingly global marketplace, developed countries are on a path of sectors of industries and  entire industries migrating off shore to lower cost locations.  If the trend simply continues the economic outlook for what once were rich countries is to say the least concerning.  If a sector cannot find a way to increase efficiency, the industry loses to foreign competitors.

One of the major industries sectors to move first was manufacturing.  Then many of the design processes.  While the migration started with what was considered the most menial tasks, that has only been the first step.

Take a product like the iPhone as an example.  Manufacturing of technology products had already reached a point where the US was simply not considered as a viable location for manufacturing for a US based product with the US as a major market.   First it was simple assembly of products that moved offshore.  Next it was component design and then for many products the entire product is designed offshore and the next step becomes the company designing and manufacturing emerging as a brand.  At that point the entire industry has moved.

The major competitor products for the iPhone come from a Korean based company.  Companies like Motorola have simply fallen by the wayside.  Chinese companies not Huawei  are starting to emerge as the new competitors.

Offshore Staff

The stats stated that 50% of US jobs are suitable for teleworking. The very same technologies that are making working at home practical, are also making sending entire business units offshore practical. With costs at major growing cities escalating, off shore operations become increasingly attractive. There are two ways to ‘offshore’, outsourcing and simply having off-shore teams.  Outsourcing has very often given way to low cost, high skill environments moving to support offshore teams.  This is a complex topic.

Reversing the Cycle: teleworking.

If a percentage of workers are working remotely at any given time office space can be reduced.  Reducing commute time through reducing days commuting reduces congestion and returns time to workers.   The current trend to increase tele working can produce the efficiencies industries need and more than offset the continual cost increases from the current trend of the entire population migrating to the mega-cities.

Solving the Problem: remote communities.

The long term solution is to make a country as efficient as possible by allowing tele-workers to actually live in remote locations. There are several hurdles to overcome, but this is the only viable long term solution.  A solution to this problem is what is required to be a competitive country in the global market place.

to be continued…


Table of Contents


Flawed Australian voice of Indigenous People referendum: The irony of a voice campaign that failed to listen.

A tragic lost opportunity. Why didn’t those proposing the voice make changes to remove ambiguity and eliminated enough of the negative perception to win over enough support instead of simply declaring” “No, if that is how you see it you are either racist or stupid!” Was it just that there was no willingness to listen?

Australians had an opportunity in a constitutional referendum to righteously shout loudly “I am not a racist” by voting for a proposition that, at its core, could be seen as fundamentally flawed, divisive and even potentially racist, in the hope even a risk of moving in the direction of apartheid is still better than nothing.

The referendum resulted in a huge setback for action on indigenous disadvantage and while it did seem unlikely to do anything to unify Australians and offer more than some possible affirmative action, the division resulted with even sometimes “yes” voters being encouraged to also be racist.

This is a deeper look trying to see each side from the perspective of the other, with the reality that both sides had a point, and a vast majority of people do want equality and unity.

Perhaps it little more work could bring things together and offer a fresh enough perspective to move beyond just another well-intentioned patronising racism failure like the stolen generations?

Read More »

Population: Our greatest achievement may cause our demise.

Arguably mankind’s greatest achievement, the near eradication of infant mortality, has resulted in a population explosion resulting in overpopulation that we prefer not to mention, even though it may yet kill us. Technically we would not die from overpopulation itself, just as people don’t really die from “old age”, and the real risk is that an already present threat will be exacerbated and become fatal because through our greed we ignore overpopulation.

Unlike old age, the overpopulation risk factor could be avoided or reversed, we may be influenced by economists dependant on Ponzi schemes, the worlds’ largest corporations and billionaires who thrive off the resultant increases in inequality into believing that living conditions required by ever increasing population levels benefit everyone and not just those living in mansions.

Read More »

Crime: A litmus test for inequality?

Around the world, many countries have both a battle with equality for some racial groups and minorities and also a battle with crime-rates within and by those same groups.

Should we consider crime rates the real sentinels of problems and a solution require focusing on factors behind crime rates? Or is the correct response to rising crime rates or crime rates within specific groups an adoption of being “tough on crime”, thus increasing rates of incarceration and even deaths in custody for oppressed minorities and racial groups?

This is an exploration of not adjusting the level of penalties and instead focusing on the core issues and inequalities behind crime-rates. It is clear that it is “damaged people” in general rather than specific racial groups that correlate with elevated crime rates, so why not use crime rates to identify who is facing inequality?

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Ideal population of humans: How many people can, or should, each country, and the whole planet support?

It seems like the human population has forever been growing, but any analysis makes it clear growth must stop eventually at some level. The question becomes at what level should growth stop?

Do we go for the maximum possible people just before everything collapses, even if average living standards could be far better with a smaller population? With caged hens being farmed for eggs people advocate for a lower free-range population instead of denser living caged hens as it provides a better existence, but does anyone advocate against multinationals and politicians pushing for denser and denser housing for humans in order to allow bigger populations of humans for them to farm?

It seems to be accepted that global population growth should stop but claimed that countries who end population growth face economic disaster.

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Influence: There’s no free lunch and they use your data to make you pay.

It can seem all those tech companies are so dumb giving away services for free.

I recently read another comment containing the “I don’t want Google getting more of my data to sell” and it reminded me of the question, ‘why is your data valuable?’ people too rarely ask. The common myth is that Facebook and Google etc want your data so they can sell it, but even with companies that do sell your data, it still requires someone to turn data into money, and enough money to fund the “free” services of the tech companies and allow them enough spare to make profits beyond anything seen in the world previously. So how does the data turn into so much money?

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Google and Facebook etc make their money from advertising, not from selling data, and unless they use can the data to persuade you to buy products at prices inflated by advertisers paying part of the sale price to Facebook/Google etc, they would lose money.

Your data is used to inflate the cost of living and earn votes for politicians with an agenda that gives them a budget to spend. They (Google/Facebook etc) don’t want to sell your data, but the reality, is more sinister: they use it to have to change your thinking, so more of your money will go to make them richer.

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