November 24, 2004 1:10 PM PST

Offshoring study funded by new bill

The debate over offshoring is likely to become more grounded, thanks to legislation Congress recently passed.

Buried within a massive spending bill lawmakers approved on Saturday is a provision to set aside $2 million to study the "impacts of offshoring on the economy and work force of the United States." The study is to be carried out by the National Academy of Public Administration, an independent, nonpartisan organization chartered by Congress to assist governments in improving their effectiveness, efficiency and accountability. President Bush has said he plans to sign the bill into law.

The study could help measure the scope and effects of shipping high-skilled work to lower-wage countries such as India and Ireland.

Advocates for U.S. workers have been at odds with business leaders over the trend, with arguments and studies at times backed by research from organizations that have a stake in the debate. A report earlier this year sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America found that the offshore outsourcing of software and information technology services tasks not only is boosting the U.S. gross domestic product but is also helping generate U.S. jobs. ITAA's members include tech giants IBM and Electronic Data Systems, which are among companies locating operations in lower-wage countries.

On the other side of the issue, a Web site backed in part by WashTech, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers union, claims that more than 281,000 jobs have been "offshored" since Jan. 1, 2000. WashTech's leader has argued that today's global economy threatens the jobs of America's white-collar workers.

Congress' research arm reported in September that government data offer limited insight into the extent of offshoring and its effects.

The U.S. wing of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which has been critical of offshoring, said it met with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) earlier this year and encouraged him to earmark funding for a comprehensive offshoring study.

 

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