Off-Shoring Gets Personal

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Off-Shoring Gets Personal

For manufacturers and service firms alike, off-shoring has been an efficient way to lower costs. By outsourcing work to foreign countries where labor costs are cheaper, companies can save money and pass some of the savings to their customers.

For example, in the furniture industry, BusinessWeek1 reports that between 2000 and 2006, imports nearly doubled from $17 billion to $30 billion. Most U.S. companies now build furniture overseas, particularly in China, where costs are 25 percent lower.

In the IT industry, companies are increasingly off-shoring work to India. For example, IBM now employs 73,000 people in India, a 40 percent increase in the past year, and eight times the Indian workforce it had as recently as 2003.

But it's one thing to outsource your call centers or your manufacturing to an overseas provider. It's quite another to off-shore a different type of labor — the type of labor that results in the birth of your children.

And yet, this is just one of the new markets that are emerging for people who want to off-shore personal services. These high-end services include:

  • Pregnancies
  • Personal assistant services
  • Tutoring

In all, outsourced personal services are expected to become a $2 billion industry by 2015, according to outsourcing research firm Evalueserve.

Let's start with off-shored pregnancies. According to an Associated Press2 story, India legalized commercial surrogacy, or what some are calling "wombs for rent," in 2002. There are no statistics available on the number of off-shored pregnancies, but doctors now routinely deliver such babies in every major Indian city, and one prominent physician says that every month he is contacted by several couples who want to hire surrogate mothers.

In a single clinic in the Indian city of Anand, more than 50 women are now carrying babies for couples in the U.S. and other countries. They have been impregnated in vitro with fertilized eggs from the couples who hired them.

It's a transaction that benefits both sides. The surrogate mother earns a substantial income. The couple receives the baby they cannot conceive on their own at low cost, and without the risks that come from pregnancy.

The Associated Press3 cites the example of Ritu Sodhi, a Los Angeles woman who spent $200,000 in failed efforts to conceive through in vitro fertilization, and then considered paying $80,000 to a surrogate mother in the U...

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