The Role of Robots in the Outsourcing Crisis

Alex Howe

Outsourcing has been happening for decades. Now we’ve got a President who claims he’ll reverse the trend. What’s next for American manufacturing jobs? Clues can be gained by taking the temperature of today’s factory floors: for example, check out kununu reviews of companies in the automotive-supply industry.

And what of the bigger picture? There’s a cultural narrative about China snatching up our blue-collar jobs. And it’s true that many countries with lower wages (China included) have done just that, and that American corporations have often been eager to offshore their factories.

But this narrative is missing something. As it turns out, according to experts, the primary job-destroying force isn’t offshoring at all: it’s automation. And yet, there is very little mainstream conversation about trying to stop the robot takeover.

The Big Problem with “Reshoring”

President Trump is eager to get factories moved back to the U.S. And some companies are happily doing just that. But according to the New Yorker, the “reshoring” trend isn’t going to do much for unemployment. The factories are coming back, but the robots are doing the work: “The operations that are moving back to the U.S. are largely automated. This is the major reason that there is a reshoring trend; salaries are no longer an issue once you get rid of the salaried.”

That said, it still matters where factories are located. Skynet isn’t in charge… yet. So what else can be done? Many commentators, the new President included, blame trade agreements for facilitating outsourcing. There is a great deal of debate among experts about the validity of this view. Either way, Trump has now nixed our involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership; we’re about to get a whole lot of real-world data about who’s on the right side of that debate.

It’s far too early to tell what effect the Trump administration will have on American employment. But we do know this: the best source for what’s really happening inside companies is actual employees. They’ll know what’s changing way before their employer announces anything to the world. That means kununu is still your best resource for workplace info!