Offshoring: Does it take jobs or fill jobs?

Offshoring, the relocation of business operations to a foreign country, presents both opportunities and challenges for local professionals.
Offshoring: Does it take jobs or fill jobs?

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The rise of offshoring has been a controversial topic in recent years, with many arguing that it creates new job opportunities in developing countries and reduces costs for businesses, while others argue it’s a threat to domestic hire. This business model haunts many local professionals, conjuring images of faceless overseas teams snatching away jobs and leaving behind a trail of economic despair. But is this fear rooted in reality, or is it a distorted narrative fueled by anxieties and misunderstandings?

The truth, as with most things in life, is far more nuanced than a simple binary. Offshoring, the relocation of business operations to a foreign country, presents both opportunities and challenges for local professionals. To understand its true impact, we need to read beyond the headlines and examine the bigger picture.

Offshoring is the practice of moving certain production functions away from a country to a foreign country in order to reduce costs. This could involve establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary, partnering with a local company, or simply moving an existing department, say for this purpose – your accounting department, to a cheaper location. The primary driver for offshoring is often labor cost arbitrage, where companies can access lower wages and operational expenses in developing economies. Think: some of the best accounting professionals in the global industry doing financial analysis and reporting for your own company at a fraction of the cost.

This is not to be confused with outsourcing, another popular business model, which is the practice of contracting out specific tasks or services to a third-party vendor, regardless of their location. This vendor partner could be based domestically or overseas, and the scope of work can range from simple administrative tasks like payroll processing to complex functions like software development or marketing campaigns.

Now, this usually means that the company takes advantage of the cheaper labor and comparable skills in another country. With advances in technology, businesses can also easily offshore data-related functions, such as customer service and software development.

The Job Displacement Narrative

On the surface, the argument against offshoring seems compelling. When a company shifts its manufacturing plant or customer service center overseas, it can lead to job losses in the local economy. This shift is particularly concerning in industries like manufacturing, where automation and cheap labor abroad have significantly impacted domestic workforces.

The dramatic loss of 5 million manufacturing jobs between 2001 and 2016, for instance, serves as a stark reflection of the monumental economic shift spurred by globalization. While these eye-opening statistics really drive home the importance of having informed discussions, finding smart solutions, and grasping the serious impacts of offshoring on the American workforce – it also underscores the critical need for strategic policies and measures to address the challenges and foster a resilient and adaptive job market.

It’s important to remember that job losses due to offshoring represent only a portion of the overall employment picture. Economic fluctuations (605,000 announced layoffs in the first nine months of 2023), changing consumer preferences, and technological advancements also contribute to job displacement, making it difficult to isolate the precise impact of offshoring.

A report from Zippia’s data analysis team projects that automation has the potential to eliminate and render 73 million US jobs obsolete by 2030, which would equate to a staggering 46% of the current jobs. So, while technological advancements enhance productivity and efficiency, they can simultaneously render certain jobs obsolete, leading to workforce displacement.

The Hidden Job Creation Engine

While some jobs disappear, others emerge as a result of offshoring. Lower production costs gained from overseas operations allow companies to invest in research and development, marketing, and other areas that often require the expertise of local professionals. Additionally, the increased efficiency and competitiveness gained through offshoring can lead to overall economic growth, creating new jobs in different sectors.

Think of the global economy as a giant jigsaw puzzle. When a piece moves from one place to another, the picture may shift, but new connections are formed, and the overall image can become more complex and vibrant.

The Skills Conundrum

The impact of offshoring on individuals also depends on their skill sets. While routine tasks are more susceptible to being outsourced, jobs requiring specialized knowledge, creativity, and adaptability are less likely to be replaced. This highlights the importance of investing in education and training to ensure that local professionals remain competitive in the evolving global marketplace. Furthermore, the present accounting landscape in the United States exemplifies this skills conundrum as the industry grapples with a notable accounting talent shortage. As organizations increasingly seek highly skilled accounting professionals capable of navigating complex financial landscapes, the scarcity of such talents within the domestic workforce has led to higher-value responsibilities being assigned to existing accounting employees. This not only intensifies the skills gap but also places a premium on upskilling and retaining present accounting talent, further emphasizing the urgency of addressing the skills issue to foster resilience in the face of job displacement.

Striking the Right Balance: Embracing the Benefits of Offshoring

Offshoring, when approached strategically and responsibly, is a valuable tool for businesses aiming to enhance efficiency and competitiveness. It is especially helpful in augmenting a lack of viable skills in a given location and supports local business continuity. It becomes a means to tap into global talent, streamline operations, and stay agile in a rapidly evolving market. Ultimately, the key lies in finding the right balance, ensuring that local communities and their livelihoods are not unduly compromised. The primary concern among those who have reservations in offshoring is that it can lead to job losses in their local community. While this is certainly a valid concern, it is important to remember that not all offshoring activities lead to job losses. Offshoring can also open up new markets and create opportunities for local businesses. For example, domestic companies can benefit from partnering with foreign firms to produce goods and services more efficiently.

Collaboration between governments and businesses is crucial to guarantee that offshoring becomes a win-win scenario, benefiting both the globalized business landscape and the well-being of local communities. It’s about leveraging the advantages of offshoring without losing sight of the importance of local prosperity and sustainable economic growth.

This can be achieved through…

  • Investing in training and education programs to equip local professionals with the skills to thrive in the globalized economy.
  • Developing policies that encourage companies to invest in domestic innovation and job creation.
  • Promoting transparency and dialogue between businesses, governments, and workers to address concerns and find collaborative solutions.


In the end, the question of whether offshoring takes away jobs from local professionals is not answerable by a simple yes or no. It’s a complex issue with far-reaching consequences, requiring a nuanced understanding and a commitment to responsible implementation. By fostering an environment that encourages innovation, adaptability, and collaboration, we can ensure that offshoring becomes a tool for shared prosperity, not a driver of economic anxiety.

Beyond the headlines lies a story of interconnectedness and opportunity. Let’s approach offshoring not as a threat but as a piece of the global economic puzzle that we can learn to fit together, creating a picture of sustainable growth and shared success.

Remember, the future of work is not about building walls but bridges. Let’s work together to ensure that every professional, regardless of location, has the opportunity to thrive in the ever-evolving global economy.

This thought leadership aims to provide a balanced perspective on the impact of offshoring, highlighting both the potential risks and opportunities. By presenting a nuanced analysis and advocating for a responsible approach, it encourages everyone to move beyond the fear-mongering narratives and engage in a constructive dialogue about the future of work in a globalized world.

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Offshoring involves relocating production functions to a foreign country, while outsourcing involves contracting out specific tasks or services to a third-party vendor, regardless of their location.
The primary driver for offshoring is often labor cost arbitrage, where companies can access lower wages and operational expenses in developing economies. This can result in cost savings for businesses and create new job opportunities in the foreign country.
Governments and other stakeholders need to engage in informed discussions, find smart solutions, and implement strategic policies and measures to address the challenges and foster a resilient and adaptive job market.
While some jobs may be lost as a result of offshoring, it can also lead to increased efficiency and competitiveness and can create new jobs in different sectors, thus supporting overall economic growth.
Investing in education and training is key to staying competitive in the global marketplace. Building specialized knowledge, creativity, and adaptability will help protect you from job displacement.

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