(July 13, 2012)
A specific comment made me think really hard about outsourcing again. As you know I think you should respect some ethics in business when you do outsourcing.
There are three points of criticism against hard work like transcription on Mechanical Turk to very low prices, that had a point. At least partially.
- Say that they are children working on mechanical Turk.
For example, on the account of their parents. That would go against child labor laws. Wouldn’t it?
I personally don’t know if there is any possibility to prevent that. This could be a real problem for all online work because no one will be there to check on who is sitting behind your computer and clicking for money.
- There are minimum wage laws. Those laws were created specifically because people are willing to work for ridiculously low amounts of money.
I am aware that a person in India with a low wage gets less money than the people working for a minimum wage in a European or US country.
So is this unethical?
It’s a hard question.
People have different costs of living in different countries and although there is globalization everywhere, people are not in the same living conditions everywhere.
So my take on this is to:
- find out what the living conditions the country you outsource to are
- and then limit yourself to how far you will go down with the prices.
As an employer on Mechanical Turk, this is very much within your power and if you are a worker on Mechanical Turk, look and choose which sort of work you want to do.
Note that it is very much possible to limit jobs on Mechanical Turk to workers from the US only. There the risk is very low that someone will work for pennies an hour.
And in general, for example for writing HITs, I would recommend you do that. You will get probably the best results regarding the quality of the English language.
What about health dangers and safety laws when doing tedious computer work for very small amount of money?
It is true that you can hurt your hand or your eyes and also your back by the way, if you are sitting in front of the computer and do repetitive tasks without taking a break. It is also true that the Mechanical Turk system does nothing to prevent this.
Should there be a protection mechanism there or are we being over protective?
Is this argument just for the sake of discussion or is it a real issue that should be addressed?