Human Resource Leapfrogging

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Human Resource Leapfrogging, a term coined by Harvard Economist Richard Freeman, describes how developing nations  “with many less-educated peasants and relatively few scientists and engineers can compete” in industries that have traditionally been dominated by advanced countries. The example that he uses is the IT industry, which has relatively high knowledge requirements as a barrier to entry in the field.

The India has come to be a major player in high-tech, and Information technology. The country is attracting Foreign investments in education and Research and Development in IT fields, but why. Freeman ‘s answer is that India and China are able to research and innovate in advanced sectors because they have a high number of scientists and engineers absolutely, even if the proportion of their labor force that is a scientist or engineer is lower.

This process of producing large quantities  of scientists who allow a country to develop technologically at a high rate is the leapfrogging. Highly populous countries are uniquely capable to using this approach to technological development and China is the most populous country in the world.

There are dangers to human resource leapfrogging as a method of economic development. The distribution of the gains to technological advancement must be wisely distributed (and I make no judgments here about what that entails), or else there is a risk of developing an extraordinarily wealthy subset of the population while the masses continue to live in poverty, but China’s government’s control over the economy should allow them to harness and distribute the gains from Leapfrogging efficiently.

Source: Richard B. Freeman – America Works: Critical Thoughts on the exceptional U.S. Labor Market.

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One Response to Human Resource Leapfrogging

  1. Jobs in IT don’t require workers to be on site and are well suited to outsourcing. By having foreigners work remotely, firms can take advantage of differentials in labor costs.