Considering Labor Costs in Foreign Expansion

by Guest Blogger Nick Rojas

Ever since the National Science Foundation ended its sponsorship of the “NSFNET Backbone Service” on April 30, 1995 any remaining restrictions on using the Internet for commercial purposes were lifted. This resulted in a revolution for many industries, especially those focused on information and communication.
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All of a sudden, you did not have to go to the local library to look up information on subjects you were researching. You also no longer had to contact newspapers and magazines to issue job postings.

What was happening on a local level would soon cross international borders and connect entire workforces, industries, and populations. Outsourcing labor and expanding export and import infrastructures soon became a trending topic for an increasingly connected, global society of the 21st century.

Why Outsource?

The U.S. and large parts of Europe underwent massive economic growth in the second half of the 20th century. With all the growth, however, came the increase in local labor and energy costs.

This was one of the main reasons why many Western corporations began to invest into production facilities in foreign markets, where labor costs were comparatively low and where they could give local economies a boost.

Made in China

One of the nation’s becoming most popular during this era was China, which made a name for itself by offering high productivity at low wages – as low as 100$ a month for non-skilled labor in Chinese factories. The “Made in China” label, to this day, is synonymous with cheap manufacturing labor, as opposed to, for example, the equally famous “Made in Germany” (representing high quality engineering).

Even though China is a Communist country, it was able to build a capitalist economy integrated into the World market. This, however, combined with the increased exposure to Western standards and philosophies among the Chinese population – due to the Internet – has in recent years led to many demonstrations and a generally more pressing uprising of the Chinese labor force against corporations and the government, echoing what Europe went through during its Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.

So while China is still a cheap manufacturing market, investments into the nation’s cheap labor force are becoming increasingly risky considering the latest political developments, which are only now gaining momentum and will continue to raise awareness as the rest of the world learns more about the situation.

India – a Valuable Tech AllyNick2

If China is known for cheap manufacturing labor and Germany for first class engineering, then India is the nation that offers the highest density in talented software developers and other computer-based services.

There are two main reasons for this, the first one being that not only colleges, but Indian companies also invest into technology-related education of young adults. Secondly, since India’s industrial infrastructure is still catching up to Western standards, the chances of landing a job in the mechanical, electrical, or chemical fields are low. In addition to that, many American and European companies are increasingly outsourcing software-related labor to the Indian market, so this trend is not going to change anytime soon.

While China is struggling with an increasingly difficult political situation, an interesting synergy is starting to develop between Western and Indian people. The latest generation of entrepreneurs of companies like Facebook, Uber, and WhatsApp consists largely of Millennials, the first generation that grew up with access to the Internet.

Their exposure to global information and cultures has turned them into a tolerant, curious, and cosmopolitan generation. For Millennials, globalization is not a new development, but status quo.

As a result, they don’t see their Indian counterparts as just another source for cheap labor, but as potential partners who share the same passion and interest – technology. So while wages in India are still much lower – an experienced programmer in the U.S. makes up to $200 an hour, whereas Indian developers charge closer to $20-30 an hour – this growing “partnership” between generations and nations will have an impact on Indian labor costs, especially in the area of software development.

Other Markets

China and India have certainly become very popular for their outsource-friendly workforce, but South America and Africa are going to be interesting to watch over the next few decades as the United States is making significant investments into their local infrastructure, renewable energy, and banking system.

Conclusion

It might seem like commercial Internet has been around forever, but it has really only been around for two decades. Considering the massive impact on the global marketplace it has already had, it is clear that we will see dynamics shifting between foreign markets over the course of the next century, and labor costs will be one of the most important factors to watch.

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Nick Rojas is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles and Chicago. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. He has contributed articles to Visual.ly, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas,. or you can reach him at NickAndrewRojas@gmail.com.

4 thoughts on “Considering Labor Costs in Foreign Expansion

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