updated 2/16/2004 4:14:02 PM ET 2004-02-16T21:14:02

The German firm Siemens will move most of the 15,000 software programming jobs from its offices in the United States and Western Europe to India, China and Eastern Europe, a company official said Monday.

"Siemens has recognized that a huge amount of software development activity needs to be moved from high-cost countries to low-cost countries," said Anil R. Laud, managing director of Siemens Information Systems, the group's information technology subsidiary in India.

About 3,000 of the 30,000 software programmers that Siemens employs worldwide are already in India.

Laud declined to reveal the exact number of jobs to be relocated or how long the process would take.

Scores of Western firms have farmed out software development and back-office work to India and other countries, where wages are significantly lower. India is expected to earn $13 billion from such services for the fiscal year ending March 2004.

The job shift has led to a backlash from unions and politicians in Western nations.

Siemens programmers worldwide might lose their jobs too, once the planned shift is implemented.

"It is a problem. They could lose their jobs," said J. Schubert, the spokesman for Siemens in 11 countries, including India. "The Indian subsidiary will fight hard to get a portion of the pie," he said.

Laud said Siemens Information Systems, which has a development center in Bangalore, India's technology hub, hoped to get software development work for Siemens' customers in telecommunications, health care, transportation and energy industries.

He said China might get a chunk of the jobs too.

Siemens is a diversified company offering engineering services and products to a variety of industries. It has annual revenues of $95 billion and employs 417,000 people.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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