Job 'exodus' threatens industrial earthquake


The UK is in danger of turning into a nation of "fat cats and hairdressers" because of the outsourcing of hundreds of thousands of finance and IT jobs to India.

According to the science and engineering union Amicus, the exodus of jobs to the subcontinent represents a social and industrial "earthquake". And the Union has urged the government to set up an independent commission to investigate the issue.

Amicus, whose annual conference opened on Saturday, predicts that some 200,000 UK jobs are likely to be lost in the biggest industrial collapse since manufacturing was "decimated" in the 1980s.

Service sector industries, including call centres, replaced manufacturing in many regions with high unemployment levels, but these jobs are now being lost as well, says Amicus.

Firms such as BT have opened call centres in India, where costs are a fraction of those in the UK.

Roger Lyons, joint general secretary of Amicus, says outsourcing is an inevitable consequence of technological advancement, adding: "Our job now is to identify ways in which we manage that change so that our communities don't face the same fate as they did in the 1980s.

"Whole communities are being asked to face the nightmare of the 1980s once again. It is imperative now that the Government acts on the lessons learnt from then and takes steps to manage this next industrial and social earthquake.

"We will take whatever action is necessary to make sure that employers and governments deal with this matter urgently and in partnership with communities that rely on them."

In the United States, where the outsourcing sector grew about 60 percent in the year to March 2003, concern at the scale of outsourcing is such that several states have proposed tough anti-outsourcing legislation.

New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Washington have all have been considering banning the outsourcing of government IT work, provoking an angry response from India. Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley said that legislation would amount to restraint of trade and a denial of market access.