I received a ton of email and blog comments this week from various people airing their views on Senator Schumer’s visa-fee hike. They tended to be in the form of one of the following:
- “Right on – this guy is all about protectionism and has little idea how to create jobs”
- “The policy is so toothless, it’s barely worth talking about”
- “It’s only targeting firms who excessively use H1B staff, so what’s wrong with that?”
- “We have to protect American jobs”
- “I never knew you were a Republican”
All fair comments – except the last one. Firstly, my politics have always been left-of-center – I am merely a global realist and believe in intelligent, informed debate on these tough issues. Secondly, it never ceases to amaze me how polarized people in the US are when it comes to politics. You’re either Democrat or Republican – there’s now common ground on anything. And thirdly, I’m not American anyway, so it’s a moot point.
The other major point that needs to be made, is that this policy does nothing to create American jobs – it’s merely political grandstanding from the protectionist lobby. As we pointed out, the visa-hike will only encourage further offshoring, and the inflated fee is not enough to have any meaningful impact on altering current dynamics. Moreover, it’s pretty hard to couch these political actions as anything but protecti0nist politics when the Senator in the driving seat brands one of the leading Indian IT services firms a “chop shop” (detracted, or whatever – he said it).
What options, then, could the US government consider, if it wants to “stop” Indian IT services firms bringing temporary IT staff over to the US, and create an environment for fostering onshore technology employment and innovation?
1) Give Indian services firms tax-incentives that would sufficiently motivate them to hire and train US IT employees. Many of these firms provide a great training ground for new IT talent – now let’s ensure they are motivated to train and develop talent in the US and not just offshore staff. Many leading Indian firms have proved extremely good at training, developing and motivating young IT talent, so why not get us a piece of the action?
2) Give US enterprises tax-incentives for creating new onshore IT jobs. This won’t be any harder to administer that call center tariff etc.
3) Establish an oversight committee that will devise an immigration strategy to encourage top talent into the country and ensure it stays here. Ensure immigration policies are focused on developing the talent pool in the country and not open to abuse;
4) Establish more dynamic partnerships between academic institutions and businesses. We don’t see enough involvement from the academic sectors in the global sourcing industry today – a few firms, such as Systems In Motion, are pushing the agenda, but these firms need a lot more investment to get anything like the scale and execution capability to be effective in the global market place.
We live in global economy and we need to focus on being competitive for a larger piece of the pie, not trying to protect limply the dwindling one we have left. The Chinese economy is the new powerhouse – we need to ensure we have the innovators, thinkers and operators to compete effectively. Countries with developing talent, such as India, can help us be competitive, as long as we create smart entrepreneurial environments to work with them.