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U.S. Faces Accelerating Loss of High-Tech R&D Operations, Jobs to Asia

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WASHINGTON – 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 National Science Board reports.

The rapid expansion of science and engineering capabilities in China and its neighbors pose an ever-more-formidable economic challenge to the United States, according to the group, with Asia rapidly boosting the number of engineering doctorates it produces and research dollars it spends.

The report, released on Tuesday, comes as the Obama administration is seeking to make U.S. manufacturing more competitive through engineering and innovation. In June, it announced its Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, and sunk $500 million into the effort.

But as the National Science Board publication shows, vast government efforts in Asia are working along similar lines. It offered abundant evidence that government efforts in Asia to attract and develop engineering outfits, and not just low-wage factories, have paid off. Since 2000:

♦ Research and development expenditures in China and nine other Asian countries has risen to match that of the United States.

♦ The number of doctoral degrees in engineering awarded in China has more than doubled since 2000, and now far exceeds the number awarded in the United States.

♦ The number of research workers for U.S.-based multinationals working overseas has more than doubled.

“Over time, global science and technology capabilities have grown, nowhere more so than Asia,” according to the report. “In most broad aspects of science and technology activities, the United States continues to maintain a position of leadership. But it has experienced a gradual erosion of its position in many specific areas.”

The report also highlights the broader loss of related U.S. jobs.

The number of high-tech manufacturing jobs in the United States has declined by 687,000, or 28 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the report.

Although the long decline of manufacturing employment in the United States is often attributed to the cheaper wages in developing countries, China and developing countries in Asia have in recent years sought to lure more sophisticated manufacturing operations – and better jobs – by expanding their engineering prowess through government investment in education and research.

— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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