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Sending Work Overseas is About More Than Money

In the past decade, there have been many discussions on outsourcing work and manufacturing products in other countries. Many companies find that it is easier and much cheaper to get their work completed or manufacture their products elsewhere since the United States imposes many regulations and laws on the way companies handle their business. However, the choice to outsource work or manufacturing to another country may be about more than just money.

In an article from Macgasm, clearly created by mac enthusiasts, the company’s decision to not manufacture the iPhone in the United States is discussed. According to the New York Times, Apple was one of the company’s that boasted about its products being made in America. However, today there are very few Apple products made in the United States. In fact, nearly all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas. So, what happened? What was is that made Apple pull their manufacturing from their home country and move it into other countries such as China. It seems as though two simple words sum it all up: work ethic.

We have heard this from countless companies before and we are hearing it once again from one of the leading tech companies in our country. Work ethic. According to many business leaders, the work ethic of workers in other countries far surpasses that of workers in the United States. Plus, the laws that exist in our country that control the amount of hours worked, break times and mandatory meal breaks don’t exist in other counties. According to the article, during a dinner with Silicon Valley’s top business leaders and luminaries, President Obama asked Steve Jobs what it would take to manufacture the iPhone in the United States again? The answer Jobs gave to Obama was very clear and straightforward. According to Jobs, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” This may have been a bit brash on Jobs part, but if honesty is the best policy, he wins.

In light of his answer, many were left with a burning question. Why? Thankfully, Apple execs didn’t leave us wondering too long. As the Times reported, “Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products. ” So, there you have it. Workers in other countries are much more flexible, have advanced their skills well beyond American workers and are much more diligent in their work. When faced with this answer, can anyone really blame company execs and business leaders for taking their work and product elsewhere? When work is cheaper, you get better results and you do not have to comply with dozens of regulations, wouldn’t you too choose to go outside of the United States? Many businesses say yes.

If it’s difficult to believe, take a look at one of the examples Apple provided in order to back up their claim. When Apple needed to revamp iPhone manufacturing, they relied heavily on a Chinese, not American, factory to get the work done. The company redesigned the phone’s screen just weeks before it was due to come out. They needed to have the new screens implemented and they needed it done fast. According to the Times, the new screens arrived at the plant in China by midnight and in no time 8,000 workers were woken up, each given a biscuit and a cup of tea. They were guided to a workstation and within a half hour of the new screen arriving were already working on fitting the glass screens to the phone’s frames. They started their 12-hour work shift a half hour past midnight and within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. This is essentially what any company dreams of. You have work that needs to be done and you have willing and able workers to complete it. Think about it. Would you ever roll yourself out of bed at 12:30 A.M. to start a 12-hour work shift working on something as miniscule as a screen? I know the answer is “no.”

This is not to say that anyone, especially Spark News, condones this way of business and manufacturing, but the reality of the situation is that this is how some countries overseas operate. If these workers were willing to get our of bed, start work at midnight and stay working for 12 hours, how can you argue with a company’s decision to take this over the U.S alternative: waiting until the next work day, scrambling to get the work done and having to pay extra for workers that work overtime. Where companies once felt obligated to give American’s jobs, they now overlook it and think more about profits and the well-being of their business. Betsey Stevenson, the former chief economist at the Labor Department was quoted saying, “Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice. That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

Furthermore, Apple may harbor feelings that other company’s share as well. A current Apple executive voiced the opinion that doubtless many other company executives agree with. “We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries. We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.” And frankly, how can you argue with that? Apple’s job is making devices that are chock-full of the most advanced technology. It is not their job to create jobs for Americans. Doubtless hundreds of other companies share this same opinion. And if labor and manufacturing costs are cheaper elsewhere, sorry America, but their business depends on their product and not your job.

While the regulations and laws in place can’t go in reverse, American manufacturers need to thoroughly think about what they are doing and how they can improve it. Perhaps they already have. Manufacturing in the United States has significantly increased recently and is currently doing much better overall than any of the other seven developed countries. While that doesn’t mean that companies such as Apple will be quick to migrate their work back over to America, at least it is a step in the right direction.

SOURCE: The New York Times
IMAGE: Courtesy of Apple

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter