“This narrative has been going on for a while now that Indian IT workers come to the US and that they take away jobs, that in general they simply displace American workers and that these are low-paid, not even necessarily high-skilled people who are actually taking away jobs from better paid and skilled American workers,” NASSCOM president R Chandrashekhar said.
Chandrashekhar was here this week leading a delegation of IT industry body to engage with members of the new US administration on issues like clampdown on work visas and flow of skilled manpower between the two nations. He said, “The data, not just our data, but the US government’s own data also tells a very different story.” Chandrashekhar met a number of influential American lawmakers, opinion builders, members of think-tank community and the officials from the new Trump Administration and interacted with them on the H-1B visa issues.
The visit of the NASSCOM delegation came in the wake of the ongoing debate in the US and reported moves by the Trump Administration to bring out an executive order to curtail the use of H-1B visas, widely used by Indian IT majors.
Chandrashekhar said the Indian IT industry actually contributes immensely to the US economy in terms of jobs that are created in America, both directly and indirectly.
“Close to half a million jobs have been supported in the US as of 2015. The number of jobs have also been growing at 10 per cent per year as against a two per cent growth in the rest of the job market,” he said.
“The biggest contribution to jobs, of course, is what the industry provides in terms of services to US corporates, 75 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies, which enable them to be more productive, more efficient, and more globally competitive, and thereby helps them to be the job creation engine in the US,” the NASSCOM president said, arguing that the services that the IT industry provides in the US create many jobs. “This in fact, aligns well with President Trump’s objective of having more jobs in the US. That’s why the need to make this counter narrative well understood,” he said.
“There is misperception that qualified US workers are displaced by the recourse to a couple of anecdotal stories, whereas the reality is that there are 2.4 mn jobs, which are unfilled in the US as they need STEM-qualified workers, and they simply aren’t available,” he said.
By 2018, the projection is that the number will touch 3.4 million, and half of them will be computer and IT related areas, he observed, adding that the unemployment rate among STEM workers for computer and IT related skills is around two per cent.
“It is well known and recognised by all experts that anything under four per cent indicates a shortage. If it is around two per cent, then that indicates the extent of shortage. This myth that there are qualified people who are being deprived of a job is far from the truth,” he asserted.
“The third aspect is, if you look at even the American universities, which are the source of skilled workers going forward, more than 70 per cent of the students in the STEM programmes are international students. Even if you wanted to hire from American universities, you’ll still need a visa to hire those skill sets.
“Why would such a provision, which is ostensibly to protect American workers be applied based on a definition which ultimately only singles out Indian companies. I think the argument is that this is not correct, and this is not even protecting American workers,” Chandrashekhar said. “I would argue that if the American workers are to be protected, then please protect them fully. Don’t protect them by closing a side door and leaving the front door open,” he said.