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Trump orders clamp down on H-1B workers

by on31 January 2017

Silicon Valley must prove they can’t hire US workers

After solving the problem of terrorists coming into the US by using an executive order banning Muslims from entering the country from places where he does not have business dealings, Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump is doing something similar to Big Tech.

For a while now Silicon Valley has insisted that it needs shedloads of H-1B workers because there are not enough skilled US workers to do the job. However this has led to criticism that the tech companies were using the programme to bring in cheap workers from India and China while US developers were locked out because they were too expensive.

Trump’s administration has drafted an executive order to force businesses to try to hire an American first and if they recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid.

According to Bloomberg, the draft says that the US’s immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest.

“Visa programs for foreign workers ... should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritises the protection of American workers -- our forgotten working people -- and the jobs they hold.”

The foreign work visas were originally established to help US companies recruit from abroad when they couldn’t find qualified local workers. In many cases, the companies are hiring for highly technical positions in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. But there have been allegations that the programmes have been abused to bring in cheaper workers from overseas to fill jobs that otherwise may go to Americans.

There have been calls from all sides of the political spectrum to sort out the mess and none of the ideas mooted will bring much joy to big tech.

The move will cause a lot of headaches for outsourcers, primarily from India, who run the technology departments of large corporations with largely imported staff.

India’s technology companies, led by Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Infosys and Wipro, have argued they are helping corporations become more competitive by handling their technology operations with specialized staff. They also contend the visa programs allow them to keep jobs in the U.S. and that if they have to pay more for staff, they will handle more of the work remotely from less expensive markets like India.

Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar said that inspections and investigations in the past have shown no cases of wrongdoing by Indian IT services companies, which have always been fully legally compliant.

“The industry is open to any kind of checks in the system, but they should not cause any hindrance to the smooth operation of companies.”

A spokeswoman for Infosys pointed out that there was a huge skills shortage in the US. “We continue to hire and invest locally... but the skill shortages in the US and the availability of technically skilled workforce in various global markets mean we also rely upon visa programs to supplement these skills.”

While there will be little sympathy from US workers, many US companies have become addicted to foreign outsourcing which has been used to slash their costs. Some analysts fear that by stopping this flow of workers could see US companies suffer.

Either way it looks like Trump is heading for a fight with Big Tech.

Last modified on 31 January 2017
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