Could In-Sourcing Labor Be a Solution for Rebuilding American Manufacturing?

sweatshop photo

Photo via of Reckon.Vox.Com

For decades, we in the US have watched jobs--especially manual labor--be exported overseas to countries like China, Vietnam, and India, where people work for significantly less money. In general, I've noticed that wages drop by an order of magnitude, moving from developed ($10/hour) to developing counties ($10/day) and then by another order of magnitude when moving from developing countries to third world ($1/day). These are rough numbers, but they do underscore my point.
Beyond issues of equity and environment, one of the major negatives to manufacturing abroad is transportation (namely, the costs and time). It stinks having to wait six to eight weeks for your goods to make it from China on a boat.

So are there alternatives? Or do we have to just accept a global manufacturing system? Tariffs have been used to protect domestic workers--but what if we offered negative tariffs--that is incentives--for goods to be manufactured in the US?

Here is a crazy idea: What if we created a "manufacturing town" somewhere in middle America where there is lots of land and currently a limited population? We could then create a new immigration visa class called something along the lines of a "manual worker visa" and offer entry to people in third world countries.

Here’s my rough idea of how the deal would work: If, for example, you work in Vietnam today and make $1 per day, you can come to America and live at our newly created "manufacturing town" and get paid, say, $2 per day. You would receive very basic health care and education (a level not at the American standards, but higher than Vietnamese standards). You may leave the town and return to Vietnam anytime if you don't like the deal, but after 10 years of service you are given American citizenship.

Comparisons to indentured servitude could be made, but I believe that this concept is offering people a better life, better wages, better health care, and better schooling, not only for the worker but for their family. Plus the program would be voluntary and those who choose to participate could leave at anytime with no repercussions. So the program would be providing people with opportunities, not forced commitments.

This solution would give American manufacturing companies the low-cost labor they require domestically, boost the US population with hard-working immigrants, and revive our old manufacturing towns (among other things).

What do you think? Everyone I have debated this plan with thinks I am crazy? Am I?

Guest blogger Tom Szaky is CEO and founder of TerraCyle, Inc.
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