Trump’s comment: Software industry bitten again by visa issue bug

Venkatesh Ganesh Bengaluru | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 13, 2016


US government needs to look at the situation in a more pragmatic manner, say industry watchers

The Indian software export industry is hopeful that economics will prevail eventually over the recent spate of anti-globalisation and protectionism emanating from developed markets such as the US and the UK.

President-elect Donald Trump’s recent comments indicating closer scrutiny and deeper scrutiny into all visas abuses, has rattled the Indian IT exporters. “We don’t understand the mindset here. On one hand we are being termed as job takers while on the other, IBM and Microsoft have prospered using Indian talent,” says a frustrated CEO of one of the top five IT exporters requesting anonymity.

While these issues have surfaced innumerably in the past, this time around it may be more than noise. One of the main reasons has to do with the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.

Sessions has been a leading critic of the H-1B programme after Disney, Southern California Edison, Northeast Utilities and others have laid off hundreds of employees and replacing them with H-1B workers, according to reports.

Industry watchers opine that the US government needs to look at the situation in a more pragmatic manner.

Sanjoy Sen, Doctoral Research Scholar, Aston Business School, believes that no US President can ignore the asks of large US corporations which lack IT and related skills due to the global skill shortage in this area, many of whom have captive delivery centres in India and leverage Indian talent themselves to address this shortage. Others agree.

“It will hurt American companies and it is certainly not a one-way street,” says Dinesh Goel, Partner, ISG, an outsourcing advisory company.

Ravinder Rana, Country General Manager at Concentrix, points out that while work visas for Indian workers would not be stopped overnight, concerns are around how this will be dealt with.

Industry body Nasscom has been steadfastly maintaining that the Indian companies are creating local jobs, hiring locally and contributing to their GDP.

Market watchers also point to the availability of workers with ‘relevant’ skillsets. “Even if we assume that talent is available, are they up to date with modern technology,” asks Goel.

Budget document

As the industry debates these issues, a week back a new 2017 budget document, titled ‘Continuing Resolution’, does not include a provision created in December 2015 by House Speaker Paul Ryan. The earlier provision allowed American companies to outsource up to 198,000 extra jobs to foreign workers through the ‘H-2B guest worker programme. H2-B visas are given to foreign nationals to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.

According to 2015 data from the US Department of Labor, companies were able to import up to 119,232 H-2B workers.

This, coupled with to raise the minimum H-1B wage to $100,000 annually have worried the industry.

Indian exporters get more than 60 per cent of their revenues from the US.

Published on December 13, 2016
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