Insourcing Benefits For US Workers Debated

Washington | Updated: Apr 30 2004, 05:30am hrs
By now, nearly all US workers have heard about offshoring, the growing practice of sending jobs especially in the high-tech services sector to India, China and other low-wage countries.

But business leaders are frustrated by what they say is a lack of appreciation for insourcing, their term for Americans working in the US offices and factories of foreign companies.

They point to statistics showing 6.5 million US workers get paychecks from employers headquartered in Asia, Europe, Canada and elsewhere. And they argue that legislative efforts to thwart offshoring could backfire and discourage foreign employers from creating high-paying US jobs.

When Americans see workplaces closing, they can get all worked up, but they have to look at the facts, said Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce. And the facts show, he said, that foreign companies send work here, in terms of legal, financial, accounting, high-tech, medical and manufacturing.

But many facts are elusive in this debate. No federal agency, such as the Labor Department or Commerce Department, collects data on how many US jobs have been sent overseas. Its easier to tally US workers who answer to bosses based overseas, but even those numbers can be slippery.

For example, about 94,000 US workers are employed by DaimlerChrysler AG, based in Stuttgart, Germany. Before th-eir company was purchased in 1998, most of those same workers were employed by Chrysler Corp., a US company. So should those workers now be included in the insourcing statistics

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., is sceptical about many of the auto-related statistics that suggest foreign firms are generating US jobs. He said that economists should consider how many US jobs might have been killed off by same foreign employers.