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Computer jobs

IT'S all too often remembered that the value of someone or something -- a person, or job, for example -- is not fully appreciated until that particular something is gone. We were reminded of this the other day by the combination of two things in the news -- a twinning that made us reflect on the importance of individuals in our technological society. The reminders were a news item saying more and more computer-related office jobs are being shifted out of the United States to lower-wage-scale nations, and National Secretaries Week, observed last week.

Today's ``secretary,'' or ``office worker,'' is more than what was previously implied by the job title. She, or he, as is often now the case, is often as much a computer analyst, administrative assistant or even research or report writer as the more traditional clerical aide, phone answerer, or correspondence typist of the past. But more important, her or his job is the essential link between the company and its customers. Thus it is disconcerting that, because of advances in telecommunications systems, more and more companies are farming out their traditional ``office work'' to overseas nations. Whether or not these ``offshore'' offices become the wave of the future, as some analysts believe, the social and economic implications are great.

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For companies that have made such a shift, the dollar savings can be substantial.

And yet, what is the impact on those workers in the US who are perhaps displaced by the shift of such jobs -- or, more likely, the impact on those future workers who will not be able to take certain computer-linked office jobs because they have been shifted elsewhere?

What must not be forgotten is how important clerical-related office jobs are to our modern society. In the US, for example, millions of housewives have moved into these jobs. It has been because of such jobs as these -- and the important second income they provide -- that many families have been able to make ends meet in today's expensive economic setting.

Is it really in industry's long-range interests to shift more and more clerical jobs abroad? As noted, there are wage savings for the companies. But industry also gains by keeping clerical jobs at home -- in terms of faster communications between supervisors and staff in a computer age requiring rapid decisions; in terms of goodwill between entire communities and companies; and in terms of ensuring a greater focus by the work force on the essential purposes of the corporation.

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