Offshoring and the subsequent loss of UK jobs may look like a cavalier move
to the public and the workforce. But no UK business makes decisions like that
lightly, or without a lot of soul-searching.
The unions reckon that around 28 firms have outsourced more than 50,000 jobs
to India in the past two years, mainly in business processing. The lure of
cheaper, highly-educated workers and the promise of cost savings of up to 40
per cent have been overwhelming for some employers.
While it is heartening to see the Department of Trade and Industry leading
the debate with employers (page 1), it is depressing to ponder on the low level
of effort to combat these pressures and address the haemorrhaging of UK jobs.
National pride should be at stake when we hear that the Rail Enquiries
Service is switching operations because it can tap into more responsive,
better-motivated employees in India, and ensure that more accurate work is
Countless pieces of research show that many UK employees are still not
engaged with working life, their jobs or their organisations’ goals. Absence
levels are at a record high in many sectors, and investment in people is
woefully inadequate. There are 3.5 million workers who cannot read and write;
no wonder our people capabilities fail to stand up to scrutiny. Such a grim
picture does not fit with the widespread consensus that a skilled and adaptable
workforce is the pre-requisite for thriving and competitive businesses.
Surely the lesson here is that the Government, unions and employers must
bite the bullet and address this with urgency. While protectionism is not the
answer, neither is defeatism.
Call centre and back-room jobs are disappearing right now, but more complex,
higher-value roles will be threatened too, such as research work and
To excel on the global stage, we need a world-class reputation for
performance. HR has a crucial role to play in instigating a shift in attitude,
and helping the captains of industry understand the scale of the challenge.
By Jane King, editor