At Least the High-End Jobs Are Still Here. Uh, Scratch That.

For years we’ve known that low-end manufacturing jobs are heading overseas. Now, according to a new report from the National Science Board, we may be losing the higher-end ones, too.

“The United States lost more than a quarter of its high-tech manufacturing jobs during the past decade as U.S.-based multinational companies placed a growing percentage of their research-and-development operations overseas,” the Washington Post explained in summarizing the study.

The question is: Is there anything we can do about it?

According to Peter Drucker, probably not. The notion that “the domestic economy, as defined by national boundaries, is the ecology of enterprise” is really an anachronism, Drucker wrote in Management Challenges for the 21st Century. “Post-WWII industries such as the pharmaceutical industry, or the information industries, are increasingly not even organized in ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ units . . . They are run as a worldwide system in which individual tasks, whether research, design engineering, development, testing and increasingly manufacturing and marketing, are each organized ‘transnationally.’”

Drucker cited one drug maker that “has seven labs in seven different countries, each focusing on one major area (e.g., antibiotics) but all run as one ‘research department.’” General Electric, he added, “has three ‘headquarters,’ one in the United States, one in Japan, one in France, each in charge worldwide of one major technology area and the products based on it.” [EXPAND More]

The bottom line: “In the traditional multinational, economic reality and political reality were congruent,” Drucker concluded. “The country was the ‘business unit.’ . . . . In today’s transnational . . . management and national boundaries are no longer congruent. The scope of management can no longer be politically defined. National boundaries will continue to be important. But the new assumption has to be: National boundaries are important primarily as restraints.”

What do you think? Are there specific steps we can take to retain high-tech manufacturing jobs in the U.S.—and, if so, what are they? Or is there simply no turning back from the shift to a ‘transnational’ system? [/EXPAND]