Unethical Outsourcing

July 27, 2023 08:30 AM By Paul Boucher

For many years, large corporate players in all sectors have looked for ways to “divide and conquer” suppliers to erode quoted prices.

There are times when this is completely above-board, genuinely looking for the best match of price and value.


However, one of the most insidious ways that North American companies have affected supplier prices is through outsourcing to lower price jurisdictions.


In voice acting, as in other businesses, what results is requests for estimates from a jurisdiction whose standard and/or cost of living is a fraction of what those realities are in the North American cities the supplier lives in, and more importantly for our work, where the work is destined to be used.


For years, generations of performers before us have fought to value and price our often-ephemeral work using objective metrics. They include (and this is not a complete list), terms of use (how long a narration can be used), and the medium or mediums the work is being used in.


One of the other important, but often ignored considerations, particularly for non-broadcast work like eLearning, is geographical location of use.


For North American voice actors, the two outsourcing locations that have acquired the most notoriety are India and China.

Both locations offer without exaggeration, pennies on the dollar compared to the rates suppliers command when working with North American companies directly for work destined for use in North America.
Here's a real-world example. I was approached by a company in India to do work in Canadian French for a national enterprise.

The work was obviously destined to be used in Canada.
The Indian company was offering 1/10th the market rate for work that that same company, has in the past, paid me full value rates for.


When I explained to the representative of the production company in India that it didn’t make business sense for me to practically give way my service to a client who had previously paid the market accepted rate for content to be used in North America, they all but laughed. They explained that this is the price offered from that jurisdiction to companies in our back yard.


On what level is this in any way an ethical way for a North American company to treat high value, high-quality, North American suppliers?
Understand that I’m not accusing a minion somewhere on the corporate ladder of maliciously seeking to undermine neighbouring businesses, but somewhere in that food chain, someone knows exactly what impact they’re having, and they DON’T CARE.


Otherwise, they could easily instruct their third party in those jurisdictions to deliver work completed locally in that jurisdiction to be priced according to local norms, but to accept North American pricing from suppliers required to complete the project. Simple.


Knowingly eroding livelihoods in North America, and using outsourcing to purposefully disregard objective pricing norms is not ethical capitalism. It’s bordering on criminal. It’s certainly wrong.


Go ahead and float a rising tide in distant jurisdictions for work performed on those shores by paying local rates. That’s one of the benefits of globalization and multi-national supply chains.
Do NOT however screw over companies in your back yard by forcing them to drop their rates by 60-90%. We will call you out. We will call out the third parties following your instructions. We will continue to refuse the work.


We know there are bottom feeders who will always accept the work. And that as they go bankrupt, others will replace them. We can’t fix stupid. Or if you prefer a more politically correct approach, “we can’t support those who, without prior acquired business knowledge, experience, and intelligence, make faulty decisions they aren’t fully qualified to comprehend the full, long-term consequences of.”


That’s my take on multi-national corporations with profits in unimaginable sums screwing over suppliers by using outsourcing. Also, those who don’t understand the ramifications of their own actions accepting work on terms that should, from every common/business-sense perspective, be re-negotiated or declined.