India Has Its Own 'H-1B' Problem - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
9/16/2009
11:16 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary
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India Has Its Own 'H-1B' Problem

U.S. worker groups complain that Indian outsourcers import too many employees to this country under the H-1B visa program. Ironically, Indian professionals-and New Delhi-are now stressing over the throng of talent from the People's Republic that is accompanying Chinese business contracts into the Subcontinent.

U.S. worker groups complain that Indian outsourcers import too many employees to this country under the H-1B visa program. Ironically, Indian professionals-and New Delhi-are now stressing over the throng of talent from the People's Republic that is accompanying Chinese business contracts into the Subcontinent."An India-specific approach will have to be thought through by Chinese companies," said S Jaishankar, India's ambassador to Beijing, in a huddle this week with Indian and Chinese business and government leaders.

Jaishankar-perhaps the world's most tone deaf diplomat given the millions of Desi workers employed abroad-groused that Chinese companies that carry out direct foreign investment in India tend to populate their operations with Chinese workers, while enterprises from other countries, like the U.S., usually hire locals.

"I have personal experience in working with many of India's other major economic partners. I cannot recall their investments and projects requiring such large manpower support from home," said Jaishankar. He's right on that: IBM, for instance, now employs more than 80,000 Indian workers in its operations in the country.

Are Jaishankar's concerns legit? Should companies that conduct operations in India hire Indian workers? Or, for that matter, should foreign-owned businesses in the U.S. hire mostly American-born employees?

Whatever you think about the moral, patriotic, or nationalistic aspects of the question, the only realistic answer is that it ought to be left up to them.

Numerous factors inform corporate hiring-estimates of cost, productivity, and business continuity are all in the decision mix. If India forces foreign enterprises to discard those factors and hire only locals, it will discover what the U.S. is learning.

In a flat world, where you can make anything anywhere, and where "Country of Origin" can be changed in seconds by shutting down a server in one locale and firing up another elsewhere, the work will simply move to a more hospitable climate. And along with it will go tax revenues, commerce, and other local economic benefits.

I know, it's the old "half a loaf argument,"-but a lot of folks are hungry these days.

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