CHENNAI: The Indian IT industry has shrugged off the allegation made by Infosys whistleblower Jay R Palmer that Indians issued H-1B visas to the US have ‘minimal skills’, declaring that one or two individual cases could not be taken to make such sweeping generalisations and that it was ‘highly trained’ people were entering the country.
“The fact remains that there is an unmet demand for people with these skills in the US. It is highly skilled people who are sent under H-1B and rejections have actually gone up year by year,” stated R Chandrasekhar, president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies ((NASSCOM).
Palmer, best known for having won a visa fraud case against Infosys resulting in the firm shelling out $34 million in settlement, stated to members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that Indian H-1B workers had“minimal skills and little or no business knowledge”. Further, Palmer also said that several companies like such as Infosys continued to abuse B1 and H1B visa laws.
“Americans are training these people on how to do their job. As statistics can validate, most of these workers have only a bachelor’s degree: how is this specialised talent?” Palmer had asked.
NASSCOM rubbished the statement pointing out that the US labour statistics themselves showed that there was a need for the skills that Indian professionals brought. “Their own labour department statistics show that the unemployment rate in this sector is around 3 per cent. Experts agree that any unemployment rate of below 4 per cent means there is a deficit in labour availability,” said Chandrasekhar.
B V R Mohan Reddy, vice president of NASSCOM and Chairman & Managing Director of Cyient concurred while adding, “The people we (Indian IT industry) send to the US are very highly trained and we spend substantial amounts on their training.”
In fact, Reddy said that the argument that Indian professionals cost companies cheaper than locals was untrue because of the costs involved were higher than hiring locals.
“Of the 1,500 persons that Cyient has in the US, more than a 1000 are local employees,” he pointed out.
It is in this context of unmet demand for a skilled IT workforce that an increase in the H-1B cap of 65,000 was being sought after by the IT industry.
“The caps are set by their own government depending on the need for people with these skills and the availability of people with those skills in the US. There is a deficit of these skills there currently,” he said adding that Indian H1B workers have saved the US companies billions of dollars. “Not by being a cheaper workforce but in terms of increasing efficiency and productivity,” he said.
Chadrasekhar also countered Pamer’s statement that the request for a cap increase only benefited the Indian economy. “On the contrary, we are meeting unmet demand and preventing those jobs from going out of the US. The value multiplier is still there. If not, these job would, by necessity, go out of the country,” he said.
According to industry sources, nearly 20,000 Indians went through on H-1B visas for FY 15. But NASSCOM says that the cap of 65,000 on H-1B visas a year is insufficient to the requirement and has been pushing the US government to increase it. While the cap has remained unchanged for FY 16, NASSCOM spokespersons said that their position remained the same and they were pushing for a ‘substantial’ increase in the visa cap.