“They take our jobs”

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That is the mantra here, in the US. We hear a lot about it on TV and come across many articles supporting it. No, I am not talking of it in the present context of the economy going into recession, but this has been the popular opinion for a while.

[Here, ‘they’ refers either to the immigrants in the US or aliens to whom US companies outsource local jobs and ‘our’ refer to the citizens.]

To think of it, the argument sounds reasonable – globalization has created this situation wherein companies take advantage of low cost labour thereby neglecting the employment and welfare of its own people.
Thousands of Americans have lost their jobs to immigrants and alien companies.
Who is benefiting? Who is to be blamed? Who is losing? The answers seem obvious but they are not.
I just finished reading this book, ‘They take our jobs’ by Aviva Chomsky.
The author has done a very comprehensive research to find out the facts and point out the myths and misconceptions of the reality. Though I’ll be jotting down some of the points here, the book is certainly a ‘must read’.

In the early 20th century, the Government collaborated with businesses to help find ways to reduce cost of production and increase profit margins. When local labour unions grew stronger and workers gained more rights, the businesses started looking at options of bringing in workers from other countries or shifting some work to countries that had cheaper labour costs. Immigrants didn’t fall under a labour union and didn’t have the same rights as citizens. So businesses could successfully reduce cost of production and increase their margins and the final consumer always got the benefit of low prices. Immigrants are also reasonably happy, because whatever they earn in dollars will mean more money(after conversion) to their families back in their countries.

Then there are the fallacies that immigrants don’t pay taxes and drain money from the US economy to their own countries in the form of remittances. The author points out that the immigrants who don’t pay taxes are the ones who are mostly hired for informal service jobs, like cleaning, baby sitting etc, for which they are paid less(lesser than the minimum rate prescribed by the law).
The author argues that remittances to other countries is a complex point and needs to be looked at from a global point of view. Spending of foreign remittances can have local and global effects, since, nowadays many products or raw materials used for products and even processes may come from different parts of the world. Remittances may also have a long term effect of more migrations or reliability on immigrants in order to afford the rise in cost of living caused due to remittances.
There are of course, a lot of illegal immigrants but most of these people are engaged in low paying jobs like textile factory workers who have fewer rights in the country and are paid less for their work, in turn reducing the prices of those products. So who’s winning? Who’s not?

Chomsky’s book is very informative, factual and brings out the logic behind many false notions. She has discussed 21 myths in a very constructive manner.

Understanding the complexities of this huge, multicultural American economy is certainly not easy. But this book is a no doubt a good start to understand it the right way.

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3 thoughts on ““They take our jobs”

  1. As an American, and an African (raised in Nigeria), I find the politics of trade policy in the US to be the most fascinating topic.

    I find that most people within the US do not have the faintest idea of how interconnected (and dependent upon) other countries the American economy actually is.

    I grew up in Coastal Nigeria, in the shadow of an industrial plant owned and operated by an American company. I personally hold this company responsible for the river behind it that is now dyed pink with pollutants.

    I find that there is an isolationist strain in parts of the American political landscape that has more to gain by raising xenophobic and protectionist-trade rallying cries than by educating the citizenry.

    Nonetheless, I teach my clients and others that every American has the opportunity to make wealth and that wealth is a personal responsibility. Playing the blame game is an excercise that only benefits certain politicians at the expense of everyone else.

    Gogo at http://www.wealthmatrixsystem.com

    Ps. This is the 2nd time I’m running across your blog. Good Job!

  2. Hi Gogo,

    Thanks a lot for dropping a comment. Whatever little i know about the American economy is from the news, papers or blogs; am really glad you shared an experience.
    As a child, the only country i knew besides my own was America. We always hear so much about it. Even now, some of my friends residing in different countries tell me how most of the news channels cover minute by minute updates from the US.

    Once again, thanks a ton for sharing your views.

  3. If the question is that how can America have a high lifestyle with cheap goods and services without importing foreign goods or lowskilled immigrants, my answer is that its just not possible. Whether Americans will benefit by treating these immigrants as trash is a matter of subjective debate.

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