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Outsourcing: What’s Next?

We’ve heard a lot about American companies farming out programming, call center or back-office work to India. But we may be less aware of the offshoring of other jobs — such as clergymen and soldiers.

With Roman Catholic clergy in short supply in the United States, Indian priests are picking up some of their work. American, as well as Canadian and European churches are sending Mass intentions, or requests for services like those to remember deceased relatives and thanksgiving prayers, to clergy in India. Offshoring, amen.

Also being outsourced is soldiering. The United States is contracting with India, as well as other countries, to pick up arms and defend American interests in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and elsewhere. These hired soldiers used to be called mercenaries, but now they are called contractors.

It’s not known how many priest or soldier jobs have been farmed out, but it’s important to make a distinction between the impact of these types of outsourcing and that of offshoring technology jobs. In the case of church services, there is actually no loss of American jobs, because there were not enough U.S. priests to offer the services in the first place. Indian clergymen have just come in to fill the gap between the supply and the demand.

As for outsourcing soldiering, well, Americans should be less unhappy about that than about losing high-tech jobs to India. Though it may sound cynical, nobody loves running the risk of losing his/her life by being a mercenary.

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