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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why US Labor Can't Compete

A very compelling article in today's NYT -- explains that it's not just that foreign labor is cheaper, but that it's a whole lot better.  More flexible, more efficient, better able to respond quickly to last-minute design changes.  It's simply not possible for US labor to compete with the networked factories and live-in worker dormitories that they have in China.  There's really no point in even trying -- that's how far behind we are.

And this tends to undercut the idea that the wealthy here are "job creators."  While Apple used to manufacture a lot in the U.S., it doesn't anymore.  Here are the Apple numbers, from the article::

"Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Instead, they work for foreign companies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, at factories that almost all electronics designers rely upon to build their wares."

If your kid is going to grow up blue collar, make sure he or she learns some blue collar skill that can't be exported (electrician, plumber, etc.).

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