Outsourcing public policies

The debate on outsourcing is raging in Denmark as everywhere else in the western world. It has gotten more relevance during the Danish election campaign that has just started. Populist politicians are flocking to the northern part of Denmark where a Danish meat company has just announced that it is going to close one of its meat factories and transfer production to a country with lower labour costs. From all of the political specter the goal is to assure the population that they are on to put of the situation. But what are politicians to do. How should public policy address outsourcing?

I don’t have the answer. But some interesting insight to contrast the traditional Danish perception of the problems surrounding outsourcing is brought to the fore in the discussions recorded by and presented at IT Conversations.

In particular I find it interesting that the American reaction to outsourcing effects on American workers are – not surprisingly – not automatically that the government should grant more money to re-schooling programs for displaced employees. It might be that such initiatives are leaving the employees in a worse situation than, if they were forced to go out and find them a new job themselves – even if such a job is a at lower entry salary. I don’t know if this true. But I know that in Denmark a huge amount of the money spent for re-schooling of unemployed are de facto to be considered as employment projects for the teachers and administrators of the programs themselves.

In addition it is interesting that most politicians today also take it at face value without any scrutiny that outsourcing is always in the national interest. Noone dares to denounce free trade and openly take a protectionist view. Winners’ gain will always be higher than loosers’ loss is considered an axiom. This is not necessarily so. The companies and it shareholders in generally always win when production is outsourced. Whether outsourcing – that is free and unhindered trade – is a good thing for the country depends by the end of the day – as always – on devising the proper public policy. What that policy might is a good question!

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