Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Outsourcing and the law of unforeseen consequences

Aspects of outsourcing that may bite either the outsourcing company or the country as a whole:
- When you import cheap labor, the money you pay them goes back into the US economy, improving it. You also "grow your own" - create the next generation of thinkers and leaders. When you outsource, you are exporting both money and training to another nation. (globalists may cheer, but is this what US CEO's want?)

- An in-house IT staff, if treated well, contributes more than just code for cash. They will improve your infrastructure, generate additional labor-savings with pet projects, and build a corporate knowledge of your business. When you outsource, you get exactly what you pay for, and not a penny more.
If you have one and only one IT project, this is fine. I'd be interested to see a company that has one and only one IT project.

- The proprietary knowledge and data issues discussed previously on here.

These issues bolster the thought in the IEEE thread that outsourcing may boost profits in the short term, but are there long-term costs that will outweigh the benefits?


Friday, December 26, 2003

Not much of this really "matters". (Warning generalities ahead.)

The CEOs are largely interested in gaining wealth in the sort term. They really have no interest in the health of the business.

Businesses don't want to be left out of the current fad. The way Wall Street works encourages this. Again, it's an interest in the short term. CEOs and big investors want quick jumps in stock prices.

IT is very expensive and low quality (think of all of the examples of cost and schedule overruns). It's also hard (for business) to understand. Business does understand salaries. So business looks at it as "the same crap for less money".

Friday, December 26, 2003

At the same time, though, it is a world economy. i.e. the ascent of India represents a massive new market for the world's producers (some billion+ people), and these are people that will buy a copy of Windows YZ, and a new Ford Escape.

Having said that, I entirely believe in the local money cycle philosophy, and even try to only buy gas in my hometown as it supports, even to a marginal degree, a local owner and local employees. If I have choices of products and one is made in China while another is made in locally, and the prices and quality are similar, I buy the local product (for example baby wear -- excellent quality, and only marginally more expensive).

As a sidenote, for all of the worry about India and outsourcing, that is just a tiny drop in the bucket -- if you want to see money disappearing from your local economy, never to return, start paying attention to how much of the goods that you buy are made in China -- it is absolutely staggering. Given that the vast majority of these are plastics or electronics that are overwhelmingly put together by automation, and hence the manpower cost difference is marginal, I am prone to believing that it must be because of lax Chinese environmental laws -- that's one of those things that the WTO needs to equalize.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, December 26, 2003

I agree with Philo about the things you lose with outsourcing, especially the "brain drain" and loss of accumulated domain knowledge.

In all the programming jobs I've worked, understanding the underlying business goals is pretty crucial to creating successful software.  Half of the skill in software development is sussing these out.

Theoretically, with outsourcing, the in-house project manager is responsible for distilling all of that knowledge into detailed specs for the outsourced programmers to follow, so theoretically the programmers don't really need to know any of that stuff.  But I think we all know that's never quite the case.

John Rose
Friday, December 26, 2003

I agree, especially with the In-house staff point.  Being a consultant, the past couple of companies I have been at, only allow 40 hours to be entered into their time systems, so employees working 45 - 60 hours, still show 40 hours.  Consultants, can enter EVERY hour they worked, in order to get paid.

These are then compared against each other  and then the dollars true costs look skewed. 

Friday, December 26, 2003

Dennis wrote, "...if you want to see money disappearing from your local economy, never to return, start paying attention to how much of the goods that you buy are made in China -- it is absolutely staggering"

Just a small quibble with what you wrote.

I bet that SOME of the money you speak of does return to the United States (or some other industrialized country) it simply doesn't return to the "local economy" and enrich the heavily taxed average Joe citizen. While there are lot of manufactured goods currently being produced in low labor cost countries such as China and Mexico that doesn't necessarily mean that ALL the companies that are producing those goods are actually Chinese or Mexican owned businesses (i.e. multi-international corporations comes to mind). 

Dennis wrote, "As a sidenote, for all of the worry about India and outsourcing, that is just a tiny drop in the bucket "

That might be true, but when it comes to the computer industry India really is a country you should be worried about simply because so many of its citizens can speak English and have cheap (if not free) access to just about any software development material they might need to compete for work.

Imo, njkayaker's post hit the nail on the head. I agree that in general most business leaders probably look at the offshoring of IT work as, "we will be getting the same crap as before but at least it will cost the company less money and that means more bonus money for me".

One Programmer's Opinion
Friday, December 26, 2003

but you guys are only considering contractor style outsourcing, what about where you outsource an entire division, like Sun did with the core java development team, and now those are perms working there not contractors

the artist formerly known as prince
Friday, December 26, 2003

MSHack wrote, "...Consultants, can enter EVERY hour they worked, in order to get paid."

What you wrote really depends on the client, what those consultants are doing, and what their employment situation is like.  Many so called consultants actually work for a consulting firm as a salaried employee.

One Programmer's Opinion
Friday, December 26, 2003

outsourcing should be especially terrifying to financial services/insurance organizations.  given the fact that their lifeblood is truly a set of business processes (i.e., moving bits around)... handing this domain knowledge to a group in India, Romania, etc. could very well breed a new global competitor.

a bank or insurance company that farms out IT may, in fact, be building and training their own competition... ten, fifteen or twenty years from now, watch out.

Of course, I suspect some CEOs and boards are starting to get it.  Bank One, I believe, stopped outsourcing and brought everything back in house.

dir at badblue com
Friday, December 26, 2003

10-15 years in the future? who cares, i'll have sold all my stock and retired with a nice golden parachute by then.

-- signed, typical short-term CEO

Friday, December 26, 2003

I agree with Philo in that an in-house employee adds "hidden value" that is hard to put a price on.  This value may only be conspicuous by its absence.

The question I have, which I've yet to see an answer to:

Are firms which are agressively outsourcing software development happy with their decision?  With the quality of output, cost savings, etc.

Long term, I'm not as worried about what CEOs are thinking right now as much as I'm worried that outsourcing may actually be a good business decision.

Yes, outsourcing is happening.  But does it "work" for most who try it?

Does anyone really know the answer to this?

Bill Carlson
Friday, December 26, 2003

Oddly enough, the number of CxOs who say the company has actually saved a lot by offshoring their IT appears to be much smaller than those who say they *must* outsource because of the "massive cost savings".

The reasons for that include (1) it doesn't really save much if at all, and (2) they don't know if and how much they are saving, because they haven't made any honest attempts to measure the productivity of their own employees vs. the outsourcers.

Unlike Bill C., my fear is that outsourcing *won't* be a good business decision, given that it is happening anyway.  If it brings real savings and increased profits, other opportunities will be created in the economy as a result of cheaper products and a stronger stock market.  If it doesn't, it means the losses will become worse, resulting in even more layoffs in the long run.  By the time reality hits and it becomes clear that the savings are nonexistent, the damage may be too much to recover from.

"The truth is, no one saves 80 percent by shipping IT work to India or any other country. Few can say they save even half that. As just one example, United Technologies, an acknowledged leader in developing offshore best practices, is saving just over 20 percent by outsourcing to India."

T. Norman
Friday, December 26, 2003

Well, everyone wants a panacea.

80% cost savings, eh?  Makes me wonder what the benefit savings are.  I imagine they're quite high. 

I think one of the persistent traits I've seen in this field since day one, is the "castle in the sky" mentality among management.  IT in a sense is building castles in the sky; because computers are intangible and immediate, the idea that much can be done with little, magically, is persistent, and it breeds a certain level of irrational optimism.

Outsourcing is a natural extension of that.  Computers have brought us the promise of magical interconnectivity over global boundaries; and so, the wishful thinking endemic to management has leapt continents.

This industry would be much better off if we grounded ourselves in the harsh realities of software and IT development.  Software development is a kind of intangible trench warfare; the slippery nature of it makes it very expensive, and elusive to traditional business processes.  Even the 8-5 workday.

There just aren't any management miracles.  That line of code I wrote, is a liability.  The code an Indian writes, is a liability 2000 miles away.

And until management accepts the liability inherent to developing, and stops shortchanging people on schedules and fostering cultures of waste and regret, then IT is frankly going nowhere.  Even if its physical location hops continents.

Outsourcing is a bad idea; anyone who's worked in this industry knows that.  It's just common sense.  How can people read Joel's advice and develop software, and let this affront to basic, common sense slip past their radars?

Friday, December 26, 2003


...where "2000 miles away" is slang for "very far."  :)  n thousand, even...:)

Friday, December 26, 2003

T. makes a good point.  The U.S. economy had a great run while much manifacturing was being sent overseas.  I don't see very many people crying that hard drives or toys are made in the Pacific rim.  On the contrary, disposible income has gone up as a result of consumer electronics, computers, and household items becoming so cheap that they barely merit a budget line item in Quicken.  This disposible income has been pumped back into the economy here in ways that have benefited the highly skilled worker.

I think we will reach a point of diminishing benefit from cheap foreign goods and labor.  When this will be, it's hard to say.  It's difficult to imagine the entire U.S. economic engine depending on cutting-edge technology, natural resources, and jobs that require "touch".  Maybe it's possible; I don't know.  I've yet to be convinced that a rising tide always lifts all boats, but I'm not an economic expert.

My concern is basically selfish.  If outsourcing doesn't work out, there will be a glut of failed projects that need fixing and a lack of new meat in the industry due to the "sky is falling" predictions.  This translates to higher demand and salary.

If outsourcing works out, the in-demand skills may shift to business process analysis, spec writing, etc.  After all, writing code is only a portion of software development.  Writing detailed specs could take as much time as the actual coding and is less likely to be outsourced.

Any predictions on how long it is before we know whether outsourcing is "where it's at"?  5 years?

Bill Carlson
Friday, December 26, 2003

>'My concern is basically selfish.  If outsourcing doesn't work out, there will be a glut of failed projects that need fixing and a lack of new meat in the industry due to the "sky is falling" predictions.'

If it fails flagrantly -- meaning that they not only don't save money, but they also have failed projects 90%+ of the time, then sure, there will be a glut of work for locals to cleanup.  If it succeeds exceedingly, it will free up money in other aspects of the economy.

However, there is a scenario between the extremes that could be very bad for us.  If it offshoring works to the extent that they get functional systems but they fail to actually save money doing so, they may still decide to stay with the outsourcers because of the difficulty of transitioning the work back in-house.  By that time, so many people may have been pushed out of the field or left the field and don't want to return, and few people will be graduating in CS or related fields, and they would have lost the institutional knowledge required to take resume full control of their systems.  As a result the CxOs may conclude that they are "locked in" with the outsourcers, and the jobs don't come back.

T. Norman
Friday, December 26, 2003

All this speculation about whether outsourcing is good or bad ... of course it's bad for the people who work in the jobs being outsourced. The issue is what are you going to do about it.

As to the near-term consequences, I think it's pretty obvious there will be a lot of dodgy work to be fixed up, and a lot of structural damage to companies, but I don't think that will help the programming profession at all.

Locals (Americans) will be hired to fix the problems, and then be lumped in as part of the problem. ("IT never delivers blah blah ..." and because programmers as a profession are not assertive, they will cop it.)

The big problem with this job is that there's no mileage in being good or excellent, unless you run your own business.

Friday, December 26, 2003

"it will free up money"

So there's only a fixed pie of money and once it's gone it's gone.

Friday, December 26, 2003

I'm sure there are niches where outsourcing makes sense, but I suspect after things shake out there will still be plenty of jobs for local programmers, for reasons mentioned by Philo and also discussed elsewhere.

In the long run, I think the technologizing of India and China is really exciting.  Not to get all new agey on folks, but there is a whole lot of human potential there that's been languishing and can kinda start to spread its wings.  I look forward to seeing what those guys produce over the next couple of decades.  New software frontiers, new opportunities, doesn't matter if they start in Silicon Valley or Hyderabad.

Matt Conrad
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Yeah in India they could create a fantastic database to keep track of everybody by caste so that the low caste people don't use the wrong sort of bathrooms.

And in China, they can develop massive databases to keep track of all he potential thought crimes going on and to identify patterns that indicate the location of illegal house churches to be raided.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Outsourcing is no longer maintenance projects or well-specified projects for banks. the latest trend in outsourcing is innovative, cutting edge projects with sketchy requirements and requiring completely agile methods. This article says that such projects can ONLY be successfully accomplished overseas due to the simple economic facts:

>After launching five start-ups, Solidcore chief executive Rosen Sharma says he would never build a company without outsourcing the relatively expensive and highly skilled tech jobs to low-paid contractors or local hires in developing countries.
>"The British empire bought raw cotton inexpensively in India and sold the finished goods back in England," said Sharma, 31, who earned a Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University. "Our raw material is intellectual power, which is cheap in India, and the finished product, our software, can be sold around the world."

But don't worry, folks, there will still be plenty of IT jobs for you once we get rid of all the 'dead-weight' that's been burdening the industry. Soon, all you extra special people with extra special skills will have extra high paying jobs.  yours won't be outsourced. That's onle going to happen te the OTHER guy.

Tony Chang
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Yeah that stuff doesn't bother me anymore. I used to pay for software but now that I've been downsized I just pirate all the software I want and I'm making some money on the side pirating software for small businesses who can't afford software anymore either. The system works. The spending money I have left at the end of the month is more than it used to be and quite frankly, I don't feel guilty about pirating at all anymore.

Happy Pirate
Saturday, December 27, 2003

The money that goes to China for manufactured goods is miniscule, pennies on the dollar earned, so the lion's share of the profits do return to our own economy, and get recycled in the form of advertising, building stores and so forth.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the vast majority of companies that outsource anywhere, and especially to India aren't technology companies. AOL is a content provider, not a technology company, for example.

We don't care where the techonology comes from the same we we don't care where the shoes come from, and we don't care if the next generation's technical geniuses are in India (remember how briefly the Internet geniuses ruled).

America isn't a manufacturing giant. America isn't even a technological giant (though for the time being we are, just as we were manufacturing giants during the 19th century).

America is a marketing giant. Nobody else on earth is as good as we are at getting you to buy something you don't need, or spend 10 times more on the things you do. We've spent billions of dollars over the past 6 decades figuring out how to push the buttons of our consumers, and that is what makes our economy move.

Critics may predict the fall of the second Roman Empire. I predict that in 100 years time, perhaps within our lifetimes, the world will become America. A MacDonalds in everyone's belly, and Nike on everyone's feet.

Does it matter that the people who are currently making the Nike's can't afford them? Remove America from the world economy and all the programmers in India will be out of work. Remove India from the world economy, and America marches on.
Saturday, December 27, 2003

"Yeah in India they could create a fantastic database to keep track of everybody by caste so that the low caste people don't use the wrong sort of bathrooms. And in China, they can develop massive databases to keep track of all he potential thought crimes going on and to identify patterns that indicate the location of illegal house churches to be raided." - Ekonimisist

Clearly typed by someone who knows very little about either country in the twenty-first century.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Wow Zahid you really think that they don't raid house churches in China?

And you really think that members of different castes are treated the same in india?

Saturday, December 27, 2003

>Three House Church Leaders Imprisoned In China

>SANTA ANNA, CA (Aug. 5, 2003) - On July 13, police raided a house church in Xiaoshan City, Zhejiang province, China, and arrested at least three church leaders. According to a China Aid Association press release dated July 24, the raid came at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning while the Christians were meeting for prayer and worship.

Eighty-year-old Shen Shaocheng, who helped found the church more than 25 years ago, was among those arrested. Xu Weimin and Gao Chongdao, two other house church leaders, were also taken into custody. The three men are being held at an unknown location. Authorities have not revealed their location to their families or allowed them visitors.

The church, which has about 1,500 members, belongs to the "Little Flock," one of the largest house church "streams" active in China. The Little Flock is best known in the West for their famous founder, Watchman Nee, whose writings are widely read by Christians all over the world. Nee was martyred in a labor camp in 1973, and his followers in China still suffer persecution.

The Xiaoshan church has been destroyed three times by the authorities over the last 25 years, but it was rebuilt each time - even without government permission. During the recent SARS scare, authorities ordered the church to stop meeting. However, members continued to gather.

The local Religious Affairs Bureau (PSB) has repeatedly tried to convince the church to register and join the government-controlled "Three Self Patriotic Movement." Little Flock theology, while urging Christians to be model citizens, stresses the lordship of Christ over the church and strongly resists government attempts to control the spiritual affairs of each local assembly.

More than 300 PSB officers raided an affiliated congregation in Hengpeng village during a Sunday service on July 6 and demolished the church building. This church has also refused to register with government religious authorities. The believers continue to meet in their homes and other locations.

"Continuing persecution, which includes the brutal demolition of believers' homes and places of worship, has done nothing to assure the world that Beijing has truly reformed its ways and is a worthy venue for the 2008 Olympics," a China watcher told Open Doors.

Johan Companjen, president of Open Doors International, says Christianity is flourishing in China despite the recent crackdown on Christian believers.
"The government wants us to believe there are no problems in China. Yes, the official church has its own kind of program -- but we are really serving the house churches," he says. "It seems that the government is afraid to lose control, and that's why it has clamped down. But they cannot stop what God is doing."

Open Doors is training 6,000 leaders in China, according to Companjen. Also, Open Doors hopes to send 2.2 million Bibles to China in 2003.


Christians Arrested in Church Raid

For the fourth time in four months, Guangzhou house church preacher Li Dexian was kicked and beaten by police on April 29. With his wife and a coworker, he was arrested for holding an illegal church meeting. "At least they didn't break my ribs this time," he said with a thin smile. In another area of China, three believers were arrested for preaching on a bus. According to reports, the entire bus with all its passengers was taken to the police station in Zhenping, Henan Province. Each person was interro- gated as to whether he or she was a Christian. Those who said yes were fined and had all their goods confiscated. In Anhui Province, the leader of a house church had his head shaved in the shape of a cross by police, the culmination of a campaign to force all churches in the area to register with the government. Struggling for Control And on it goes, with constant reports of arrests, threats and intimidation by the Chinese government, bent on bringing the blossoming house church movement under strict control. In the Anhui case, the campaign began when the authorities asked the leaders of known underground churches to attend a seminar on legal matters, only to detain and fine them (which the leaders refused to pay).

Then the Public Security Bureau began destroying unregistered church buildings. Police and Communist Party officials led a convoy of 200 people in trucks and tractors to the sites of three churches, where the workers demolished them. All materials, including Bibles, hymnbooks and furniture, were confiscated and the leaders were detained. 142 Arrested Government officials recently surrounded a house church and stormed in to arrest a Taiwanese pastor and 142 Chinese Christians in a government raid near the city of Zhoukou in central China. The Christian gathering was a Bible training class for local house church leaders. Officers arrested the entire assembly and detained them for more than two months, forcing them to pay fines of $118, about one year's salary in many parts of rural China.

Local Christians say it is very likely that the raid was violent, saying that security officers are routinely armed with electric stun batons which they use to administer powerful shocks to religious dissidents. Chinese pastors in the area say that this kind of action is not unusual. Seven key house church leaders fled their homes after receiving warnings that government officials were seeking their arrest. Bible League representatives confirm these reports. "We met Christians who have spent time in prison for their faith," said one Bible courier who carried Bibles through Chinese customs. "I wish I could have brought just one more book with me. One couple traveled 2,600 miles over three and a half days to collect just 28 pieces of Christian materials. I asked myself,'How far would I travel to obtain one more book about Christ?"'

Despite the continuing threat of arrest, Chinese pastors plead with American Christians to send more Bibles. "There is a need for many more Bibles! In one area where I have preached there are three congregations and more than 150 believers, but only two Bibles to share between them all. Influencing the Party One reason authorities are so determined to crack down on independent Christians is the alarming ' infiltration" of the Communist Party by the hated influence of religion. According to a report from the party's Central Committee, up to nine percent of its members have joined religious organizations or taken part in religious activities. More-over, in major cities the rate of increase in religious affiliation among party members is much greater than the rate of people joining the party, according to the report. The party surveyed retired intellectuals and professionals, the best and brightest in China, and found that nearly one-quarter of them regularly participate in religious activities...  (continued...)


News from BEIJING, China (EP)

  — A recent raid on a house church in Henan Province, China lead to the arrest of at least 170 Christians in one evening. Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) reports that the house church is located in the region of Nanyang, one of the strongest Christian centers in China.  On the evening of Sept. 2, officers from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) burst into the underground church meeting and arrested everyone there. Christian ministry Asia Harvest reported that the PSB officers were interrogating many in order to determine the leaders of the group. The majority of the Christians were fingerprinted, issued fines and then released, but 14 others remained in custody with more serious charges threatened against them by communist officials, said VOM.

New regulations issued by the Chinese government last year give police sweeping authority, including liberty to arrest Protestants associated with house churches (those not registered with the government), Catholics who don't belong to the Catholic Patriotic Association (which denies the authority to the Pope), and all others considered guilty of "disrupting public order, or doing harm to the public interest through other means."

These regulations widen the scope of persecution of Christians already fined heavily for listening to broadcasts from overseas, having any contact with foreigners, or owning a Bible printed outside China. (Rutherford Institute)

A project to start a million more churches in China has begun - via radio. From Hong Kong, the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) broadcasts programs into the mainland, including two 15-minute "DAWN China" programs and a daily half-hour training program on discipleship training, personal evangelism, church growth, and missions. FEBC and two other organizations are sending training booklets into China to help new church members. (Pulse)

A Taiwanese preacher and 169 local Chinese Christians remain in detention following a Public Security Bureau raid on a house church near Zhoukou, Henan Province. Sources describe the raid on the unregistered house church as a "major police operation." While it is not known if any of the local Christians were injured during the incident, one source said it is "very likely" that the assault was violent. Following a similar raid in Fangcheng, Henan Province, last year, the number of Christians in the area grew dramatically. (NNI, Charisma)

Jin Zhiming, 45, a leader of China's growing house church movement, was arrested in Changzhi, Shanxi Province. During the raid, five officers from the Public Security Bureau confiscated Bibles, books, and Jin's personal belongings.

The vast majority of China's estimated 50-70 million Christians belong to unregistered house churches. Because they do not register with the government, which would subject them to restrictions and regulations, they are frequently arrested, fined, or sentenced to labor camps. There have been several reports of Christians subjected to torture while in detention, resulting in a number of deaths. (Christian Solidarity International)


Zahid, i can go on if you like. I have hundreds and hundreds of articles just like these on the issue of the chinese government's outrageous human rights violations. Do you still see yourself as a big expect on what life in China is like in the 21st century? Or are you one of the officials doing the torturing?

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Now that I have shown how ignorant and uninformed on the subject oof China you are, allow me to prove how sensationally unaware of facts you are when it comes to the subject of India, Mr. Zahid:

"The Indian government tried for a year and a half to deny that caste discrimination is a form of racial discrimination. But as a result of this conference, even the Secretary-General of the United Nations has acknowledged the gravity of work and descent-based discrimination, and India will have a hard time from now on avoiding international scrutiny."

Smita Narula, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch

The caste system in India, particularly, is an extreme form of discrimination most affecting the Dalits, who comprise one-sixth of India's population, or 160 million people. Human Rights Watch, through research on these human rights violations and the exploitation and segregation of the Dalits over 6 states in India, concluded that Dalits are subject to the most extreme forms of discrimination and abuse.

Some of these include having to live in separate segregated colonies from the upper-caste Indians, being forced to perform the filthiest occupations in society, and being restricted from marrying members from upper-castes. And out of this research, Human Rights Watch has also learned that violence has become a defining characteristic of this particular form of discrimination.

As there are many similarities between the situation of the Dalits and the Buraku people in Japan, some common features we can observe of caste-based discrimination throughout the world are:

As people in the lower-caste community are physically indistinguishable from members of the upper-caste community, discrimination does not rely on racially visual differences. This aspect of caste-based discrimination has led some governments to try to evade its responsibilities and escape international scrutiny by claiming caste-based discrimination does not exist because it is not linked to racism.

Caste-based discrimination is often masked by the abject surrounding poverty. Though lower-caste people are bearing the brunt of poverty, many poverty-stricken communities are sharing the same problems, such as bonded labor, high personal debt, low wages, lack of access to education, illiteracy, etc.

Despite anti-caste-based discrimination laws in many constitutions, none of these laws are implemented due to a lack of political will to raise consciousness and, in effect, disrupt economic status quo. Similarly, these same laws are not upheld by law enforcement agencies since these particular bodies depend financially on the upper-caste communities.

There is a deeply rooted religious sense of purity, or cleanliness, associated with the upper-castes, and qualities of pollution or filthiness with lower-caste communities. In South Asia, lower-caste people exclusively hold the occupation of city sanitation. Many people feel religiously justified in their maltreatment of lower-caste members.

The International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) is deeply disappointed that governments attending the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) in Durban failed to address the issue of caste discrimination and related forms of discrimination based on work and descent. This form of discrimination affects the lives of an estimated 250 million Dalits in South Asia, as well as 3 million Burakumin in Japan and an unknown number in parts of Africa.

Dalit representatives from India and representatives of affected peoples from several other countries greatly impressed the participants at the WCAR and at the preceding NGO Forum with their testimonies of systematic discrimination and oppression, and with the similarity of their experiences in different national contexts. Nevertheless the government of India vigorously opposed even the very circumspect language of paragraph 73 of the draft Programme of Action, calling for measures against discrimination on the basis of work and descent. To our surprise and dismay, the European Union did not express clear and timely support for this paragraph.

However, the IDSN strongly welcomes the concern that, among others, the National Human Rights Commission of India, the European Parliament and the Inter-Parliamentary Union have shown for the large number of people who suffer discrimination because of their low-caste status. The National Human Rights Commission of India has recognized the "manifest inadequacies" in implementation of the relevant laws protecting and promoting the rights of Dalits, and has encouraged exchange of views on these matters in India and at the international level. The European Parliament, in its Human Rights Report adopted on 5 July 2001, urged the EU and its member states to "voice its concern regarding caste discrimination and to formulate strategies to counter this widespread practice [of untouchability]". It also called upon the EU to "investigate to what extent its policies contribute to the abolition of caste-discrimination and the practice of untouchability in India".

In fact, there are many concrete ways in which the international community could help. Even a cursory look at where caste discrimination in India is most egregious will show that caste discrimination tends to be greater in areas of the country that are very densely populated, and relatively less urbanized and industrialized. Wherever the economy is stagnant, social problems are aggravated. Thus, problems of caste discrimination are greatest in states like Bihar (pop. density 880 per sq. km), UP (689) and Tamil Nadu (478).

Jaipur, July 21: Dalit human rights activists have warned that Durban was only a “trailer” and the real action would take place at such international conclaves in future.  “The world’s eyes are on India where the greatest racial discrimination after the Apartheid is being perpetuated on the basis of caste,” the speakers at a lecture on “Bringing accountability to issues of Dalit rights in Rajasthan’ cautioned.

Expressing concern over the dismal state of affairs in the country, and especially in Rajasthan, the Dalit rights activists indicated that they had no other way but to internationalize the issue of caste discrimination. “We are the people without wings.  As we start growing wings, they come and clip them,” lamented P. L. Mimroth, Dalit activist and convener of the Centre for Dalit Human Rights, which organized the lecture.

The issue of caste would again figure in the forthcoming meeting of the UN Commission on Elimination of Racial Discrimination to be held in Geneva in the second week of next month, observed Ravi Nair, Executive Director of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre. “India’s position is a very weak when it comes to protection of rights of Dalits,” he charged.

In case any complaint by any Dalit about atrocities was going unattended, the UN Special Rapporteur appointed for India could ask the Centre for an explanation, Mr. Nair observed. The countries no longer had, the traditional soverignity when it came to human right violations.  New laws permit arrest of those who have human rights violation cases pending against them in India when they visit a foreign country like the UK or Belgium, he pointed out.

There was a general atmosphere of non-accountability when it came up holding Dalit rights, the participants noted. Back in 1996, maximum cases of atrocities against Dalits were registered in Rajasthan.  In the next year, it was only the second largest, it was pointed out.  Within a 30-km radius of the Rajasthan capital, one could come across untouchability and other caste discrimination, it was observed.

The caste structure continued to prevail in the State even after Indpendence, partly due to its feudal past.  The Dalits still had to face both the societal violence and the State violence, they charged.

Dalits were the productive class of society but there had been no recognition of their contribution, noted Prakash Louis, Executive Director of he Indian Social Institute.  Even now 60-70 percent Dalits in the country remained landless labourers while only 15-20 per cent of htem were literate, he pointed out. However, even within the Dalit community case system was prevalent.  “Dalits in Rajasthan alone have 60 sub-castes,”Dr. Louis noted to drive home the difficulties in fighting for Dalit rights.  The former acting Governer of Rajasthan, Justice N. L. Tibrewal, and the retired judge of the Rajasthan High Court, Justice Vinod Shankar Dave, suggested intensive educational drive among Dalits to improve their lot and to make them aware of their rights.

Mr. Dave specially referred to the unfortunate role of Dalits in the recent Gujarat carnage.  Dalits should shed their complex of being Dalits as well as the obsession that all from the so-called upper castes were perpetrators of the caste order, it was suggested.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

From Tony Chang's link:

"Three years later, Silicon Valley investors are pressuring entrepreneurs to shrink personnel costs by as much as 60 percent by sending jobs overseas."

So we're talking about reducing costs by 60 percent from the sky-high excess expenditures of the boom, in the top 0.1% costliest place in America.  They could probably save more than that by moving work to Atlanta or Houston.

T. Norman
Saturday, December 27, 2003

>"Soon, all you extra special people with extra special skills will have extra high paying jobs.  yours won't be outsourced. That's onle going to happen te the OTHER guy."

No, I know that any given day could be my last day on the job, which could become my last day in IT.  But I have a plan B, plan C, and plan D for other forms of employment. Plus enough saved up that I don't have to work for a year, even without touching my 401K or collecting unemployment. I am no sitting duck.  What about you?

T. Norman
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Bravo T. Norman. I believe that the ability to save money, even more than the ability to own it, is one of the most important skills we can nurture in ourselves and others, and one of the greatest sign of maturity that I know.
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Tony, regarding your quote.

"After launching five start-ups, Solidcore chief executive Rosen Sharma says he would never build a company without outsourcing the relatively expensive and highly skilled tech jobs to low-paid contractors or local hires in developing countries."

You do realize, of course, that Mr. Sharma is an Indian, and plans on relocating back to India, right? He's hardly a unbiased observer, and is trying to sell the benefits of his own personal approach to potential investors. I've found that a large percentage of the "offshoring is the salvation for all of life's ills" quotes of the sort are either the representative of Indian offshoring companies, Indians, or other people with vested interests. It's hardly surprizing. I could provide a infinite number of quotes from "Western" software developers who would proclaim that offshoring is a staggering failure, blah blah blah.

Of course the most hilarious thing of all is that that entire article is about vague, "stealth" ventures, with not a single reference to such a _successful_ product. Instead it's better to pump $20 million into a unsubtantiated, ethereal product than it is $40 million...with your millions you get to yield something amazing like

Dennis Forbes
Saturday, December 27, 2003

I'd like to comment on Philo's original point.

If you are worried about keeping knowlege in the company, then outsourcing to local companies is just as bad.  On the other hand, if you hire people in the 3rd world country as your employees (or of a subsidary, etc) then you still have the knowlege in the company.

Secondly, not everyone is looking to outsource existing jobs. Often people can't find affordable trained people. The company that I work for would be happy to hire good local people in the SF Bay Area at $60-$80k a year for experience programmers, but there aren't any. Good people are far more expensive if available at all. Most of the fallout in the dotcom bust are non-technical or semi-technical people (PR, HR, Marcom, HTML Jockeys, etc) not programmers themselves. We've given up looking for quality programmers, testers, tech pubs people in CA and have oursourced all new hires overseas and to Lousianna.

I don't know what all the wailing and knashing of teeth is about. Jobs that can be done cheaper are being done cheaper. It's the american way even if has it's shortcomings. Granted that outsourcing and offshoring are becoming a business fad which only means that it will be old news in a year or so when the next big thing comes along.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Regarding the earlier comment trivialising a reduction of 20% development costs..

If I'm a company that makes 10% profit on its turnover and 50% of its costs are development then saving 20% of those development costs by outsourcing means reducing costs by 10%... which means I've just doubled my profit, which is an enormous increase!

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Except that the 20% comes with added risk and longer time-to-market, and it isn't likely to last long, because the cost of offshoring is going up by more than 10% a year.

T. Norman
Saturday, December 27, 2003

...and you can't outsource *all* your development, and if 50% of your line of business is development, then you've got some very high risks in outsourcing it at all.


Saturday, December 27, 2003

I don't disagree with either of the previous 2 posts... my point was to illustrate that he significance of a small reduction in cost can result in a relatively huge increase in profit.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

National Geographic, June 2003

Who does this Untouchable think he is, buying a small plot of land outside the village? Then he dared speak up, to the police and other authorities, demanding to use the new village well. He got what Untouchables deserve.

One night, while Maurya was away in a nearby city, eight men from the higher Rajput caste came to his farm. They broke his fences, stole his tractor, beat his wife and daughter, and burned down his house. The message was clear: Stay at the bottom where you belong.

Discrimination against India's lowest Hindu castes is technically illegal. But try telling that to the 160 million Untouchables, who face violent reprisals if they forget their place. 

The sins of Girdharilal Maurya are many, his attackers insisted. He has bad karma. Why else would he, like his ancestors, be born an Untouchable, if not to pay for his past lives? Look, he is a leatherworker, and Hindu law says that working with animal skins makes him unclean, someone to avoid and revile. And his unseemly prosperity is a sin.

To be born a Hindu in India is to enter the caste system, one of the world's longest surviving forms of social stratification. Embedded in Indian culture for the past 1,500 years, the caste system follows a basic precept: All men are created unequal. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groupings, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth come the Brahmans—the priests and teachers. From the arms come the Kshatriyas—the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas—merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras—laborers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking orders.

A fifth group describes the people who are achuta, or untouchable. The primordial being does not claim them. Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India's people live. Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.

The ugly side of India
Saturday, December 27, 2003

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