Applications from IT companies repeatedly exhausted the annual US worker visa quota, eventually leading to the lottery system
By Rajiv Dabhadkar
Subtle layoffs in the sunrise IT sector in India is currently underway, sending a shock wave amongst the tech worker community.
Repercussions of such indiscreet pink slips internally within IT companies has created anxiety and depression amongst the workers.
Incident of suicide by a tech industry employee due to job loss too has surfaced recently.
Over the past couple of years, Indian companies were recipients of the coveted US H-1B visas in large numbers.
Applications from IT companies repeatedly exhausted the annual US worker visa quota, eventually leading to the lottery system.
A foreign guest worker on the H-1B visa provided for labour arbitrage and the visa sponsoring employer(s) benefitted from the cost differential speculating earnings of USD 18,000-USD 22,000 per sponsored employee monthly, in brokerage by recruitment consultants alone.
It has been proven, that H-1B workers are often underpaid and thus responsible in driving down the wages in the US. It has created a divide between local and foreign workers.
'Americans First' is an initiative to restore the good faith in hiring and to enforce Equal Employment Opportunities by putting Americans First.
Eliminating fraud and abuse in the usage of American work visa programs, therefore, becomes necessary to bring market competitiveness.
Putting 'Americans First', benefits India too.
Not by scraping the work visa programs, but by closing the policy loopholes and tuning it for future use.
Under the Trump administration, focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills is a current national priority.
Moving forward, preference will be given to those with relevant degrees with matching experience from abroad.
'Computer Programmer' as an occupation, most commonly used by Indian IT companies to petition work visas for their employees in India has now been disqualified.
The policy memorandum was put into effect because all programmers share a fundamental job duty, i.e., writing and testing computer code, and so it was improper to conclude based on this information that the US government would consider the position of a programmer to qualify as a "specialty occupation”.
While this remedial intervention was necessary to curb arrival of low-quality talent into the Americas, it has forced structural changes within companies that are dependent on the mobility of their employees across continents.
As expected, the impact of this legislative amendment has affected the low/semi-skilled professionals, often freshers, working for IT companies in India.
While re-skilling their workforce and further training them is an option available to most companies, ongoing media reports suggest subtle layoffs are underway across the IT industry within India.
While certain corporate honchos have been spitballing the issues around layoffs, claiming it to be an exaggeration of a few sporadic incidents, they have also made many futile attempts to woo America by promising to create jobs there, much like a child asking to bribe his own father.
While it may be prudent to observe, when questioned, petitioning Indian companies themselves were unaware of the numbers of their existing employees on H1B visas.
'Banking visas' and 'benching employees' as a process, has managed to fuel a large pool of under-skilled resources out of India, many that eventually fall out of the system, and are deemed 'visa orphans'.
Rather than trying to impress America by offering to invest and create jobs there, Indian companies could harness the much-needed goodwill if they simply took care of their existing employees here or their visa orphans in The Americas.
In conclusion, this ongoing Indian on Indian subjugation could be the reason why there has not been a single invention from India in the last 60 years, nor any idea that led to an "earth shaking" invention.(The author is Founder - National Organization for Software and Technology Professionals (NOSTOPS), a knowledge worker advocacy organisation. Views are personal. Opinion edited for Moneycontrol.)