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U.S. firms should disclose offshore hiring, says lawmaker

U.S. House bill filed today would require that firms report employment data country-by-country

WASHINGTON -- A newly filed U.S. House bill would require that U.S. public companies disclose the number of workers they employ in the U.S., and the number that work overseas.

The intent of this legislation is to discourage offshoring, said U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who introduced it on Wednesday.

Publicly traded companies are currently required to disclose total employment in annual reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Peters' bill would require that companies break out the employment figures by country and state in the reports.

"We need to do everything in our power to fight the outsourcing of American jobs and this bill gives consumers and investors the information they need to make an informed choice," said Peters in a statement.

The bill is co-sponsored by Peters, Reps. Tim Bishop (D-NY), and Rep. Jerry McNerney (R-Calif.)

This is the second bill filed in recent months that attack outsourcing.

Four House Democrats and one Republican in December introduced a bill that would also use public disclosure to discourage outsourcing.

That bill, the U.S. Call Center and Consumer Protection Act., requires that call center workers disclose his or her location if a caller requests it.

The bill also asks the U.S. Department of Labor to keep a list of firms that move call centers overseas.

The call center bill now has 25 co-sponsors.

Many companies, including those in the IT industry, currently report only their total global employment numbers.

Among the exceptions to that rule is Microsoft.

In its annual report filed June 30, 2011, Microsoft said it employed approximately 90,000 people on a full-time basis -- 54,000 in the U.S. and 36,000 internationally. Microsoft's U.S. employment was unchanged from the year-ago period, but overseas employment increased by about 1,000 workers.

Hewlett-Packard, IBM and most other large tech companies only report worldwide numbers.

IBM, which has been hiring overseas while it shrinks its U.S. workforce, stopped providing a breakout last year.

The National Science Foundation, in its recently released report on the science and engineering workforce, said that preliminary data it has collected " indicate a substantial shift " in balance in R&D employment here and overseas.

R&D employment abroad by U.S. multinational firms nearly doubled between 2004 and 2009, while domestic employment by these firms increased by less than 5% during the same period.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov , or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com .

Read more about outsourcing in Computerworld's Outsourcing Topic Center.

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