‘Be very scared’: Remote work could cost Americans their jobs within decade, experts say

Remote work may be a blessing for Americans who enjoy not having to commute to the office, but experts are warning that workers should be careful what they wish for because companies could easily hire someone overseas to do the same job for much less money.

High-paid tech workers could find themselves out of a job within a decade if companies continue to outsource those positions overseas, the experts said.

“If people that code for Google and Facebook were able to live wherever in the US they wanted and [work] for a year and a half without ever going to the office, it seems very, very likely that a lot of companies will be rethinking this longer-term and outsourcing those kinds of jobs that didn’t used to be outsourced,” MIT assistant professor Anna Stansbury told Fortune.

The Post has sought comment from Google and Facebook.

Stansbury said that back-end engineers and others could be found for less money in places like India. Other experts agree.

“If you can do your job from home, be scared. Be very scared,” Richard Baldwin, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, told the European-based Center for Economic Policy Research.

“Because somebody in India or wherever is willing to do it for much less.”

Last year, Baldwin and his research partner, Jonathan Dingel, authored a paper titled “Telemigration and Development: On the Offshoreability of Teleworkable Jobs.”

Baldwin and Dingel categorize jobs into four groups — “highly offshoreable,” “offshoreable,” “hard to offshore” and “non-offshoreable.”

A job is considered “highly offshoreable” if an employee doesn’t need to be physically near a US work location and if they also don’t need to be close to a group or unit in their department.

Many US-based companies have long outsourced their call centers to countries like India, where English-speaking workers are available to provide around-the-clock service.

A recent analysis by the Labor Department found that the highest-paying jobs such as software engineers and internet publishing are easier to do remotely, while low-paying work such as retail and food service are harder to do remotely, according to the Washington Post.

Nonetheless, fast-food workers may have a reason to be apprehensive.

Freshii, a fast-food chain headquartered in Toronto, has already started to outsource cashier jobs to workers based in places like Nicaragua, according to National Public Radio.

A customer reported to NPR that as they were heading to pay for their meal at a Toronto location, they noticed that instead of a live cashier at the checkout counter, they were guided to a tablet-size screen.

The screen then showed the face of a woman who was working as a virtual cashier, though while the customer was in Toronto, the employee was processing the order thousands of miles away from her home country of Nicaragua, according to NPR.

The Post has sought comment from Freshii.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic more than two-and-a-half years ago, more Americans are working remotely.

A survey conducted by McKinsey found that 58% of Americans reported working from home at least one day per week, while 35% were afforded the option to work from home five days a week at some point during the pandemic.

When given the opportunity, 87% of workers said they take advantage of the chance to work from home, according to the survey.


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