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Re: Design via Internet (India & Mexico)

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Dennis,

In Ecuador, the law indicates that the minimum monthly wage for a graduate
Civil Engineer is approximately US$240 per month, or US$2880 per year before
taxes.  The minimum wage for any type of worker is about US$50 a month.  A
US$15000/yr before taxes salary would be most welcome by most young
engineers I know.  However a large number of people in my country won't even
get that chance because they will never make it past second grade.

Once again, I try to understand your concerns but I live in a country where
60% of the people are poor, and that means REALLY poor, no shoes, no
electricity, no schoolbooks, no drinking water, no doctor, no welfare, no
food stamps.

This discussion is not about making anyone feel guilty, but you are painting
this desolate picture of shattered American dreams.  Doesn't it make you
feel funny to worry about your second car and your mortgage when there are
children who will not learn to write their name in a lifetime and whom at
the latest will start working at age 10?

I think the point is about fair and unfair competition, which somehow makes
me think about the whole Bill Gates thing.  My personal feeling is that I'll
endorse any work that will benefit people, as long as it doesn't involve
breaking the law, damaging the environment, or violating
human rights.

What we need to think about is not what is fair or unfair and who deserves
more than whom, which I consider negative approaches to problem solving, but
to think about POSITIVE ways of approaching this seemingly scary
international intellectual threat.  How can you keep or improve your job AND
take advantage of work and qualified workers overseas?  How can both work
out?  How can you help out people less fortunate than you?

By the way, I was able to study in the US thanks to the scholarships that
YOUR country gave me.  I could only afford to go to Cornell because I
received a full teaching assistantship for my MS.  If they followed the same
school of thought that you are proposing, it would be wrong to take
scholarship money from an American student and give it to a foreign student,
and I would have been stuck here learning engineering from books published
20 years ago and not helping my country move forward.

Regards

Maria I. Falconi
Guayaquil, Ecuador

-----Original Message-----
From: Dennis S. Wish PE <wish(--nospam--at)cwia.com>
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
Date: Friday, November 06, 1998 12:57 AM
Subject: RE: Design via Internet (India & Mexico)


>Maria,
>Let me preface by apologizing to everyone who has participated on this
>thread. I lean more to the liberal side than conservative on most issues
but
>jobs. It is not my intention to deny reasonable competition anywhere in the
>world.
>Your point about cheap labor is well taken, but from our perspective the
>labor rate is greatly different from that paid in this country. Conversely,
>the standard of living is much higher here - which is the justification for
>higher labor rate. I do not mean to imply less than adequate ability - just
>a cost of labor that the United States can no reasonably compete with.
>As you pointed out "as you must be aware
>of, the standards of living can be very different from one country to
>another, so that what is considered rock-bottom engineering fees in the
>States can be actually pretty good somewhere else and afford you a Cornell
>graduate (like me!)."
>This is my point. The rate paid goes much farther in the country that you
>refer - far enough for you to be able to save enough to attend Cornell and
>complete your education based upon higher American rates (which I guess you
>even pay a premium for being a foreign student). The difference is that
very
>few (if any) Americans can maintain the cost of living here and still save
>enough for their children to attend Cornell. I would assume that the dollar
>goes five to ten times farther in your country than it does in the states.
>If I were in your shoes, I would be doing everything I can to promote more
>work from the United States.
>Give this some thought: What is the poverty level in your country (in
annual
>dollars). In the United States the poverty level is encroaching upon
>$15,000.00 to $18,000.00 per year (the high end of the lower income).
>How well would you survive in your country if you earned $15,000.00 per
year
>from an American Employer?
>
>Let's assume that a family of three or four earns a net $30,000.00 per year
>in the United States. The family purchases a home, pays for health benefits
>and maintains the family automobile which has either been leased or bought
>but has payments left on the loan. In addition, let's assume that it costs
>$600.00 to $800.00 a month in food and staples (necessities such as toilet
>paper, toothpaste, etc), $1,500.00 a year in property taxes, $2,500.00 in
>federal and state taxes (assuming the $30,000.00 is gross income) - plus
>cost for education, personal property insurance, automobile insurance,
>Automobile registration (about $300 and up in California for a new car per
>year) etc.
>If this worker loses his job to competition outside of the United States
who
>could easily work for $10,000 per year less and afford to save $3,000 of it
>for their child's college education.
>What choices does this family have other than bankruptcy, the need for the
>second parent to seek employment to compensate for the lost wages, the need
>to liquidate assets and return to renting rather than ownership or finally
>to chose a new field and be retrained.
>
>Maria, I am not implying that workers in other countries are any less
>capable - only that they offer an unfair competitive advantage that seduces
>companies to move their labor forces out of this country. Most of the
>companies who lay people off are no longer American owned companies and
>therefore no longer loyal to the American workforce.
>
>You state: "Perhaps you should look in a more positive way: if I get more
>and better paid work, my economy and thus my spending capacity will
improve,
>and I'll buy more American clothes, shoes, books, software, etc. so that
>YOUR economy improves."
>
>This is the argument used to justify NAFTA and GATT. Consider the
>consequences. In a previous paragraph you ask "Could you possibly afford to
>buy things produced by American people?  No way. " You're right, but
>Americans can afford to by these goods since they earn more.
>
>Your previous argument has two serious flaws for American workers. First,
we
>must sacrifice our existing standard of living to help yours improve.
>Second, Americans might no longer be able to afford products if their
income
>levels continue to fall and can't be compensated by an already dual income
>family. The problem is not the cost of goods, but the cost of labor. The
>problem that seems insurmountable is what do we do when our indebtedness
>does not fall proportionately with our income? If we take a cut in pay,
will
>our mortgage lender reduce our principle to be in line with the change in
>income, will property take fall, will health coverage be more affordable
and
>still offer the same services? Will our Doctors be willing to earn less,
our
>farmers sell food for less just so we can afford to eat?  Of course not -
>this is not a proportional food chain we live in. No one wants to earn less
>just because engineers and manufacturers decide to profit more by using
>cheaper labor. We jeopardize our homes, health care, transportation - all
so
>your standard of living will increase.
>
>You also state: "It doesn't have to be all negative- if you're designing a
>project overseas, say in India or South America, your engineering won't be
>cost-competitive
>against the locals." Whoa, why not? If I have to take a cut in pay to help
>your economy, why is it unreasonable for your country to pay more for
>American labor to help our economy?
>
>" But if you merge with a local firm and work together, you can produce a
>well engineered product backed with local knowledge, at a competitive
price.
>Just a thought."
>
>This is a very good point and one that would convince me to support a
Global
>economic trade. However, you would need to overcome the transition concerns
>before you can expect voluntary support. I did not support NAFTA and GATT
>since it forces global trade down my throat by Government regulations - and
>this was supported by many Republicans and Democrats alike. However, in
this
>example, we would be competing apples for apples based upon local ability
>that might require a foreign firm to absorb some of the higher cost of
>American labor.
>
>I object to doing local work (within the United States) and using foreign
>labor just so I can profit more.
>
>Maria, put the shoe on the other foot. Assume that at some time in the
>future Americans are earning a fair wage of $1.00 per hour. Your fair wage
>is $6.00 per hour. Would you take a project in your home town and refuse to
>hire local help in order to hire an American at $1.00 per hour just to
place
>the additional $5.00 per hour in your pocket? Personally I believe this to
>be motivated by greed rather than competitive necessity.
>
>We are an imperfect society where corporations are bound by loyalty to the
>stock-holders and greed rules over the responsibility of our workers. I
>understand this from a realistic position and believe that it is simply a
>"Catch-22" that we have created. We build a workers standard of living to a
>point where he can afford and purchases the "American Dream" and he becomes
>indebted in the process to cover his cost of necessities. He believes that
>his well being is considered by his employer who then lays him off while
>hiring lower cost and equally competent labor. In the process, our society
>condemns him for not being responsible and defaulting on  his debt. Even if
>he recovers, he is marked for seven to ten years by bad credit ratings and
>may not be able to rebuild what he lost.
>Today, I heard about three or four companies who are laying off another
>7-10,000 employees (sales people) during the Christmas season in order to
>meet the stock-holders profit potential. Explain this to the families of
>these people as they approach Christmas.
>
>I hope you will understand my position. If we competed on a level playing
>field for ability, timing, economics of design or slight variations in
labor
>rates - I would be supporting your statements. But as imperfect as we are,
>there are those who abuse the system (and these are the CEO's who must
>answer to their shareholders for the most part) and who do not want
>government intervention to protect American workers.
>I expect other countries with predominately higher cost of living have the
>same concerns - Japan, Germany, England et.al.
>
>I thank you for your comments and hope you do not believe me to be un-just
>or closed minded. I will admit I am wrong when American workers feel secure
>in their jobs despite unfair International competition.
>
>Respectfully,
>Dennis Wish PE
>
>
>
>