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How to Sharpen America's Edge


A backlash is beginning against the migration of high-paying white-collar jobs in software, engineering, design, and accounting to India, China, the Philippines, and other lower-cost countries. It's one thing for workers in older industries such as steel and textiles to lose out to the comparative advantages of overseas competition. But college-educated employees in high-tech industries? That's different. Right?

Well, actually, no. Dynamic, competitive economies such as America's are always evolving -- with workers with the most advanced skills creating higher-value products and services getting the biggest rewards. The knowledge-sector of the U.S. economy is simply going through the same evolutionary process as manufacturing did in the '80s. Lower-level knowledge jobs are being commoditized. From a company's perspective, they're cheaper and easier to do by educated people overseas. Hence, they are moving.

The answer isn't to curb immigration or cut off visas but to improve America's own schools and universities. China and India have built world-class education systems. The U.S. must do better than ever, particularly in the sciences. It must also continue to be open to the best and brightest of the world, despite security worries. America's future rests on what it does best -- innovation. Washington should keep that in mind as it ponders what to do about the loss of white-collar jobs.


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