Fear and Loathing in the First World

Within the last few years, people throughout the world's most advanced economies have become acutely worried about the economic prowess of China, India, and other emerging countries with large low-wage populations. They fear for their own jobs and for their children's future in a world where they must compete alongside the world's poorest. Those fears are testing political leaders in the world's richest countries.

Newspaper stories are an indicator of this rising concern. I searched the Lexis-Nexis database of English-language newspaper stories around the world that contained all three of the words "outsourcing," "jobs," and "India." In 1999, Lexis-Nexis produced only 39 stories; by 2003, there were 749 stories. In the first six months of 2004, there were already 1208 stories. The results were much the same when I searched "outsourcing," "jobs", and "China."

I found similar growth in the use of these three terms together when I searched in French, German, Italian, and Spanish: 90% of the stories were in 2003 and 2004.

Why this explosion of concern? After all, advanced countries have been losing manufacturing jobs to less developed countries for more than fifty years.