Technology — Economic Consequences of Product Design

"In the long run, outsourcing is another form of trade that benefits the U.S. economy by giving us cheaper ways to do things." - Janet Yellen

Careful choices regarding outsourcing may indeed benefit the U.S. economy and the U.S. people over the long haul, but what of the countries to which manufacturing, assembly, and other operations are being outsourced? Does outsourcing to these countries cause a net benefit or net harm? How can corporations work not only to minimize the negative economic consequences of outsourcing but also improve the positive benefits?

One way to ensure that outsourcing leads to good in developing countries is for companies to engage in fair trade practices:

Fair wages are another way to support rather than harm workers while outsourcing operations. Paying fair wages instead of the cheapest possible wages to workers in other countries helps to promote economic equality rather than economic inequality.
Economically responsible practices are not only about developing countries but about developed countries as well. A companion to fair trade and fair wages is the concept of fair value which strives to ensure that prices charged to customers in any country are acceptable, justifiable, and reasonable.

Engineers have a voice and play a role in:
  • Charging for products what is fair rather than what is possible.
  • Paying for labor what is fair rather than what is tolerable.
  • Seeking to trade fairly rather than cheaply.
Join us as we take a look at the complex web of economic consequences that surround any design once it exits the designer's imagination and enters into the real world.

Know more:
Economic Consequences of Product Design


This work has been conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (DUE-1245464).