Offshore outsourcing will force a shift in occupations and skills, but the threat posed to the economy may have been overestimated, the president of the UK’s Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has told his organisation’s annual conference.
Digby Jones, basing his comments on a recently published research report, warned that the employment sector must undergo a “huge culture change” to withstand competition from nations
offering cheap low-skilled labour, but said he is confident that the UK could provide more jobs than it will lose offshore, as long as an emphasis is placed on skills.
“We think there will not be any work for unskilled people in a few years’ time. We need something urgently done at secondary level, and in the workforce, to make sure the people are not put on the scrap-heap,” said Jones. He explained that the jobs created by off shoring favour skilled and graduate employees.
A report published by the Advanced Institute of Management research (AIM) last week was more positive: the business services sector, it concluded, has provided many more jobs than have been lost through offshore outsourcing.
“Hardly a day passes without news of a new offshoring deal, and the public is left with the impression of rates leaving a sinking ship,’ said the report’s co-author Professor Mari Sako. “But in fact, business services in the UK are an engine of growth, and we seem to be benefiting from increased trade in business services, plus more jobs and higher productivity.”
The report defined the ‘business services’ sector as encompassing labour placement agencies, legal, accountancy, architecture and advertising services as well as computer services and call centres, and so may not reflect trends in the latter two.
However, a CBI survey found that only 15% of UK businesses offshore-outsource their call centres, far less than those who outsource manufacturing, design, research and development.