If you’re among the millions in the U.S. who are unemployed and need retraining for new work, you are, increasingly, out of luck.
But if you’re a major financial institution that wants to outsource jobs to the Philippines, until a couple of days ago, the Obama administration was spending about $36 million a year to improve the English language skills of your future workers.
Among those taking advantage of outsourced labor in the Philippines, in call centers and IT, are a couple too-big-to-fail, bailed-out financial institutions, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase.
Last week, after a couple of congressmen got riled up about the outsourcing training, the U.S. Agency for International Development said it would “suspend” the program “pending further review of the facts.”
The program was set to expire at the end of the year in any case.
But the fact is that USAID has been offering training for future outsourcing workers for several years, from South Asia to Armenia, Information Week reported. In the Philippines, the U.S. contended it wasn’t just spending the money to subsidize Citibank and other would-be outsourcers; the government said it was actually using your tax dollars as part of an antiterrorism effort in a section of the country with a Muslim minority unhappy with its treatment by the central government.
According to the USAID scheme, the would-be terrorists would be a lot happier once they learned a little English and were able to land a job in a Citibank call center.
Meanwhile the U.S. has been suffering through a staggering economic downturn and the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, as President Obama and other politicians promise to stem outsourcing and bring jobs back to this country.
Since 2007, 500,000 call center jobs have been outsourced from the United States, according to Rep. Tim Bishop, a New York Democrat, and Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, the congressmen who demanded a halt to the program. In 2010, USAID had suspended a similar $10 million initiative to train Sri Lankan workers after Bishop and Jones complained about it.
Despite high unemployment, job training programs and community colleges in the U.S., which also offer the opportunity for workers to learn new skills, have had to go begging. As the New York Times reported last week, “work force centers that assist the unemployed are being asked to do more with less as federal funds dwindle for job training and related services.”
Federal money available for retraining workers is 18 percent lower, in today’s dollars, than it was in 2006, even though there are 6 million more people unemployed, the Times reported.
While the debate over cuts to unemployment benefits has received wide attention, the cuts to the retraining programs have gone largely unnoticed.
While the president has proposed a $2.8 billion increase for job training over the next 10 years, Republicans’ budget proposals have suggested that federal funds for job training should be cut even further.
The USAID program is obviously at odds with the Obama administration’s stated intent to discourage outsourcing. Given all the other benefits and bailouts that this administration has already showered on Citibank and AIG, would it be too much to demand that the administration stop using our tax dollars to pay for these companies’ job training when they want to move more employment from the U.S.?