By Ruma Dubey
The USA H1B visa run for 2019 fiscal starting 1st Oct began yesterday. Unlike earlier, where there was a sense of palpable excitement, this time around there is a sense of anxiety and not too many techies are queuing up.
The total H1B’s visa’s quota is at 65,000; this reduced quota is at a time when a jaw dropping 5,48,000 tech jobs remain open in USA. At the same time, paradoxically, unemployment in the tech sector is around full employment levels. This means, lesser number of people from abroad, who have the talent, will be allowed to work in USA even though job slots remain open.
With Trump’s growing protectionist attitude, those applying for the H1B visa have gone down. Techies say that they simply do not want to apply to American companies as the insecurity factor has grown manifold; they do not know when might be asked to go as and when Trump raises his wall. It seems the frustration is so high that techies are seeking employment in other countries, with Canada topping the list. In June 2017, Canada launched its Global Talent Stream – a fast track program for highly skilled tech workers to enter Canada on a temporary visa in a span of two weeks.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a report which shows that market demand for H1B visa is on the ebb, for the first time in 8 years in 2017. And there is evidence from a search engine for H1B visa which shows that there is a growing trend for a decreased interest in H1B visa, and this is not a shift in preference; it is much deeper.
Remember, all this is being done to protect America and American jobs. On principle grounds there is nothing wrong; if foreigners were taking away jobs in India, would we tolerate this? Within India itself, people from other states taking jobs of Maharashtra is not being tolerated so need we say more? But to try and give this a geopolitical color would be wrong – there is nothing retaliatory or revengeful here; this was very much in the offing and our Indian companies will have to deal with this change. India is today on the global map, thanks to IT and USA helping give Indian IT the world platform.
The bitter truth is that Indian IT companies simply did not have the vision to look into the future. Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, digitization – these are the platforms on which all work is now happening and we were slow to realise this. Companies are now moving towards these new changes but these are monumental changes and require some dramatic shift in the way in which it works. Even for a behemoth like IBM, which was slow to change, it is Watson which has made it relevant today. We moved from Y2K to engineering services to BPO but currently we do not have a new product at hand – nothing which will be competitively priced and earn it the moolah. We simply did not bother to innovate, concentrating only on costs, missing out on the new bus completely.
Robotics and automation are the new buzzwords but very few have the skill sets. Today, engineers who were aspiring to go abroad might never see their dream come true and that means most will either continue to stay back or get fired. But in the midst of all this, the new graduates are in the biggest pickle as hiring them will become tougher.
India needs to make a concerted effort to hire the best and brightest to teach, and we need to pay them well. Lee Ioccoca once said. "In a truly rationale society the best of us would teach, while the rest of us should find something else to do."