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The trend in high tech manufacturing in the US is particularly disturbing. It's a low margin sector, and corporations are continually moving their manufacturing operations to cost-advantageous Asia. US workers in this area are not only unprodected by law (or lack of it) but are also generally not unionized, and companies are taking advangate of the lack of employment restrictions in this courntry.
This sector has been America's last bastion for manufacturing dominance, necisistated by the desire to keep high tech IP under tight wraps. Recently, regulations preventing this IP from being outsourced to China have been relaxed, and even companies like Intel which are very protective of their IP are opening new factories there that will manufacture microprocessors far more advanced than anything made in China to date. This is bad news for Oregon, one of Intel's largest manufacturing sites.
Applied Materials, the US's largest supplier of equipent to the semiconductor and solar industries has announced intentions to move US manufacturing to Singapore. Additionally, they continue to build new plants in China and Germany, where most of their solar customers reside. The governments of both China and Germany offer subsidies to companies and individuals who install solar panels, something not offered in the US, hence the lack of domestic customers for manufacturing equipment.
So what is the fate of the US engineering and technology professions as we become more and more of a country that produces no hard goods? If we don't make anything here, we don't need factory workers, and then we also don't need to design anything here, so we no longer need engineers.
There are two engineering sectors that are safe for the time being: the military contractors and infrastructure. As long as we still want our military developments to be top secret (and we still deem cranking out weapons systems a high priority) and as long as it's still cheaper to build bridges and highways here than to make them elsewhere and import them, these jobs will be safe.
Barring swift government intervention, I don't see the high tech sector turning around anytime soon. It may be a very long time before those 1996 employment numbers are attained again.
posted 3 years, 8 months ago
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