January 8, 2009

While the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs from high wage countries to lower wage countries is a longstanding phenomenon, we mostly think of it as one between the developed and developing worlds, not something that takes place within the EU.

U.S. computer maker Dell Inc. announced Thursday it will slash its Irish work force and shift its European manufacturing operations to Poland in a move certain to undermine Ireland's recession-hit economy. Dell is Ireland's second-largest corporate employer, its biggest exporter and in recent years has contributed about 5 percent to the national gross domestic product. Economists warn that each Dell job underpins another four to five jobs in Ireland.

Managers told its approximately 4,300 Irish employees that 1,900 of them — overwhelmingly assembly-line workers — would lose their jobs between April 2009 and January 2010. By then, the company said, it plans to have transferred the entire Irish production of laptops and desktop computers to a new Dell plant in Poland's third-largest city, Lodz — where labor costs are at least two-thirds lower than Dell's rates in Ireland — and to subcontractors chiefly in Asia.

[...]

Dell has sent hundreds of Polish staff to Limerick over the past two years to receive training from the Irish workers they are replacing. "The anger inside there is unbelievable," said Limerick native Mike Killeen, 36, outside the Dell assembly line where he has worked for seven years.

Having to train the people who are taking your job away is a bit much but a sign of the times.  Dell's case isn't the first, I am sure.  We're seeing a similar phenomenon in the United States, where automobile plants manufacturing foreign brands like Mercedes and BMW and Honda are operating in the South, which is not friendly to labor unions, while established American brands operating in and around Detroit face bankruptcy. 

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council. 

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