The translation business has been relatively spared by the current recession. But "relatively" is, well, relative. For every translation company like ForeignExchange that is growing, there is another company that is unable to pay suppliers or laying off staff.
The persistent job cuts among companies focused on translations for sectors of manufacturing or software development have some people looking for the bright side. Yes, hundreds or even thousands of employees are set to lose their pay. But that doesn't mean that the sky is falling - or does it?
Leaving aside the obvious silver-lining hope (i.e., shrinking companies will be more efficient and can deliver higher returns to their shareholders and improved security for their remaining workers), the following view points have been bandied about, trying to make lemonade out of translation lemons.
By some measures, the folks getting the axe weren't strong performers. One common argument says that longer-term, employees who got laid off will be better off because they will find careers that allow them to perform better. (As true as that probably is, it still reeks of a convenient justification.)
I have also heard it argued that job cuts in mature Western markets are enabling staff increases in emerging economies. But that's the challenge with globalization, isn't it? While some countries/regions may benefit, this doesn't give much hope to those who are losing their jobs in the U.S. and Europe.
Could it also be that layoffs will lead to new translation start-ups? It is but a tiny step to go from translation PM to translation company - a web site and a phone, and you're in business. Could today's layoffs usher in tomorrow's competitors?
It used to be that the "rising tide" of globalization lifted all translation company "boats". Not any longer. As clients look to do more with less, an increasing number of translation companies are feeling the heat.
ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation and software localization services to medical device and pharmaceutical companies. Contact us to learn more.