5 Jobs You Thought Were Safe From Outsourcing But Aren't


The debate over job creation has dominated the political landscape of 2012. And with good cause, too, given the national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. With so many out of work, it's maddening to many that from 2000-2010, 2.4 million people have been hired by U.S. multinationals in jobs outsourced abroad, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal.

Economists may argue that such "offshoring" actually results in the net creation of jobs in this country by making companies more efficient. But in the meantime, no one can deny that jobs in information technology, legal document preparation and countless financial services like tax preparation and insurance underwriting are being done by foreign workers.

And the list goes on. An analysis put together by The Atlantic of the jobs most susceptible to offshoring includes a diverse list: physicists, pharmacists and medical transcriptionists, among others. In an age in which the physical location of the worker matters less and less, thanks to advances in digital technology, are there any jobs left that are truly safe from offshoring?

Perhaps not. AOL Jobs has taken a look at five occupations for which it would be unthinkable that foreign workers could compete with American workers. But they do anyway.

Claire Gordon contributed to this report.

5 Jobs You Thought Were Safe From Outsourcing, But Aren't
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5 Jobs You Thought Were Safe From Outsourcing But Aren't

The idea of conducting childcare overseas is so ridiculous the subject has even been satirized by The Onion in one of its fake news reports. “Now sometimes I am even able to just get him right into the box without even waking him up,” one of the mothers interviewed in the faux news report says.

However unimaginable it may be for parents to actually glean an advantage in outsourcing child care overseas, any discussion of the concept must make mention of the level of foreign-born labor already doing that job in the U.S. According to the report, "Immigrant Workers in the U.S. Labor Force," issued by the Brookings Institution in March, the majority of American domestic workers are in fact foreign-born, by 53 percent to 47 percent over native-born nannies. And in some regions, the disparity is even more dramatic. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles estimated in 2008 that 70 percent of domestic workers in greater Los Angeles were illegal immigrants, to make no mention of legal immigrants working as nannies.

The presence of illegal immigrants working as American nannies has long been a high-profile, and controversial story. Back in 1993, for instance, President Bill Clinton had to withdraw his nomination of Zoe Baird for attorney general when it was revealed that Baird had employed a Peruvian couple without papers as a babysitter and driver. In the wake of the failed nomination, Baird agreed to pay Immigration and Naturalization Services a $2,900 fine in what became known as “Nannygate.” 

It would probably go without saying that educating our young would forever require a crop of domestic teachers and tutors working in our classrooms and homes. But thanks to the Internet, students increasingly have the opportunity to pursue their education by other means. One famous example is the Khan Academy, which provides 3,300 videos on topics ranging from arithmetic to history. The videos have garnered more than 160 million page views, according to the Washington Post, and have been praised from the likes of Bill Gates. But Khan's lack of formal training in education has angered many domestic teachers, who question Khan's methods and accuracy. In response, he told the Washington Post that "it'd p--s me off, too, if I had been teaching for 30 years," just to see someone like him hailed as the "world's teacher."   

In the bleakest moments of the last few years, Americans could take hope in one sector of our economy. Simple demographics meant that health care would be frantically adding jobs over the coming decades, as an average of 10,000 baby boomers retire every day and live longer. And there was another fundamental fact that kept most of these jobs secure: You can't outsource a doctor or a nurse.

Except you can, apparently. Of course the nurse who refills your IV, or changes your bedpan, can't be in India. But certain nursing services, like assessing a patient's needs and recommending services, can be shipped to foreign workers, at much lower costs. In the last 18 months, WellPoint Inc., one of the nation's largest health insurers, has outsourced hundreds of jobs, reports the Los Angeles Times. 50 of them in clinical care. And the growth of telemedicine -- doctor consultations over video, text, or e-mail -- means at least some doctors could follow suit.

Construction has to take place on the building site -- one would think. But last year, hundreds of workers in Shanghai built the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It was a winning arrangement: California saved hundreds of millions of dollars, and took advantage of China's impressive engineering talent to build a really cool thing.

China has had a dizzying building boom over the last several years, and civil engineers there have developed slicker and speedier methods of prefab construction. Earlier this year, Chinese workers built a 30-story hotel in 15 days in Changsha village. And those pre-fab modules are easily shipped abroad for less money than making them in the U.S. A Chinese company now has a contract to renovate the New York subway system, as well as a proposed $190 million bridge in Alaska. The country's overseas construction contracts have soared from $2.5 billion in 1990 to $134.4 billion in 2010, reports the Financial Times.

The image of the Latino gardener is backed up by hard data: of the roughly 8 million people working in cleaning and maintenance as of 2010, 2.5 million were foreign born. Mexico alone produced 1.1 million workers in the field, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

The fact that so many recent immigrants are gardeners is controversial. In a 2009 study by the University of Southern California's Center for the Study of Immigration Integration (“Mexican Immigrant Gardeners: Entrepreneurs or Exploited Workers?”), professors Hernan Ramirez and Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo noted the common use of the phrase “brown dirt cowboys” in Los Angeles-area newspapers -- when referring to Latinos working as gardeners. 

Still, the pie has become big enough for all to get a slice. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the sector of lawn care has “boomed” in the last two decades. Indeed, U.S. consumer spending on gardening and landscaping services jumped to $45 billion in 2006 from $25 billion in 2001 alone, according to the National Gardening Association. (Though the numbers have been stagnant through the recent economic crisis.)  


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