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ganizations. While once primarily the purview of firms in the retail sector, part-time work is increasingly found in sectors other than services. Corporations are downsizing and subcontracting activities formerly performed inside the corporation. Downsizing and subcontracting are occurring at all levels, including blue-collar, administrative, and executive-level jobs. Thus, a person's first job may not be permanent or even full-time. Moreover, it is less likely to require skills specific to the firm. By implication, firms are looking for people with strong general backgrounds, a range of skills, and the ability to work efficiently in many different settings.
Another important trend with the potential to affect geographers is the growing tendency for private sector firms to use pools of labor found around the world to undertake such service activities as software design and computer programming (Martin 1992). For example, a corporation may hire skilled workers in low-cost countries such as India and Ireland to perform tasks that have heretofore been conducted on shore. Companies currently hiring graduates with GIS training may be able to find cheaper, equally skilled workers in other English-speaking countries. Lest we think this trend cannot have an impact on our field, keep in mind that major software companies use English-speaking labor forces around the world to answer user problems and to provide technical assistance. Companies like Texas Instruments and International Business Machines and construction companies such as Bechtel have established white-collar technical support staff in developing countries to take advantage of skilled labor at low cost.
The labor market for geographers may be affected by the continued decline in the defense sector, which is thrusting thousands of engineers and technicians into a very weak aerospace labor market. Consequently, these highly skilled, computer-literate individuals with significant problem solving capabilities may compete for jobs formerly held by geographers with computer skills. Much like the 1970s, when the end of the Vietnam War put thousands of technical workers out of jobs, displaced defense workers have filtered into the public sector, running data processing and other technical operations. The extent to which these workers compete for geographers' jobs depends on their ability to gain necessary skills. Given significant federal government funding for the retraining of aerospace workers (on the order of $100 million), there is a strong likelihood of a growing supply of technical job seekers, some of whom will get jobs that geographers might have filled.
Also relevant to geography are privatization trends in government employment. Government at all levels is contracting for services, particularly services that require high-cost, in-house staff. The flip side of contracting is the growth in private sector firms providing technical services. Data are too aggregate to discern whether consulting firms use contingent workers on government contracts; however, given that government contracts are in all likelihood small in size and short-term in nature, part-time work may be one means by which contract firms manage the flow of jobs.
What do these trends mean for the future employment of geographers? Geographers, like other highly skilled workers, increasingly are competing in highly volatile and uncertain labor markets. Moreover, the cohort of new geographers who will enter the labor market in the next decade will be forced, by their sheer size and by privatization trends in the public sector, to seek out positions in the private sector not previously associated with or held by geographers. Success in the current labor market seems to be tied to computer skills, a solid generalist background, and the ability to adapt to a wide range of job tasks and employment situations.
We conducted a small survey of employers of geographers through structured interviews with AAG sponsors. These sponsors include book publishers, map and atlas publishers, geographic applications software developers, and geographic research applications specialists. In a written letter we invited representatives of the AAG's 12 corporate sponsors to communicate their views about the future demand for geographers and, more specifically, about the types of expertise that will be required for geographers to keep up with the ever-changing demands of their businesses. We were successful in conducting telephone interviews with