India is set to become the largest country on Earth by 2022, with a population much younger than China’s. There aremore children under the age of 15 in India than there are people of any age in the United States. The Indian university system, already bursting at the seams, will only grow more competitive. The internationally renowned Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) each take a fraction of a percent of candidates. The IITs, with just a few thousand seats available, require two rounds of entrance examinations: the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Mains, taken by over 13 million candidates a year, and the JEE Advanced, for which around 10% of those (13 million) qualify. The most coveted course of study/major at IIT, computer science, is open only to the top 500 or so of over 1.3 million applicants. And even among IITs and IIMs, there is significant variation in quality and job placement.
Some new, western-style colleges (such as Ashoka University) have popped up with support from American colleges and universities, but it takes a long time to build international reputation and prestige, and in general liberal arts education is not perceived as valuable by the vast majority of Indians. While there may be a future for Indian liberal arts colleges, that future is still several years away. One issue India has is quality of life: with poor infrastructure, severe air quality issues, and extreme weather, it is difficult to attract top research and teaching talent to establish a truly international university. When it comes to convincing academics and administrators to move to India, the (actual) heat and smog don’t help! India shows a lot of potential to address these issues, but for families deciding on education for their kids in the next several years, that potential means little.
Because there are few high-quality post-secondary schools beyond the IITs and IIMs, parents and students look abroad. Other than the US, Canada, and the UK, Indian college applicants also look to universities in Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, and the UAE. There are thriving Indian expatriate communities, which the Indian government calls “Non-Resident Indians” (NRIs) for civil purposes. These families, too, look for educational opportunities in their resident countries and beyond.
Some people ask me, “Isn’t it worthwhile to at least clamp down on the Infosyses, even if the Intels aren’t touched or are even rewarded?” They believe I am unreasonably waiting for a perfect reform proposal. But I am not. I have just one simple criterion: Would a given reform proposal increase the number of jobs open to American tech people?
If a proposed solution is not predicated on the fact that the Intels a widely culpable too — say a solution that punishes the Infosyses but expands the number of visas for the Intels, by increasing the H-1B cap and/or a Staple a Green Card system — then there is no forward progress at all. Disney, for instance, would either switch from HCL to IBM or would hire the young Staple people.
There are people who hate the Infosyses so much that they are blinded to this. Yes, absolutely, the Infosyses are no angels. But getting them out of the way would only shift the problem, NOT solve it.
Let me show you what he is referring to by “shifting” the problem.
Here is a little article I wrote recently describing the pendulum swings in technology hiring.
We were the Road Warriors.
We were called in when your existing staff couldn’t fix the problem.
We were called in to take over for your existing staff when they were developing new systems and needed help maintaining the old systems.
We demanded a premium wage and we were able to get it because we had the skills to deliver.
We were willing to live out of the extended stay motels and willing to take on the project of the highest bidder at a moments notice.
It was a good life in the 80’s, 90’s, and up until about 2000.
So the corporations shifted their focus to hiring an immobile, compliant workforce who would not make waves for fear of being deported.
Thus was the H-1B era born.
For the most part, they were paid substantially less even though many had the same skills that we Road Warriors had.
But many were willing to pay for a proxy expert or dubbing artist to help them get work because they didn’t have these skills.
And their willingness to use caste to exclude Americans in America from working alongside of them became their downfall.
For them it was a good life in the 00’s, 10’s and up into the 20’s.
Thus we have seen the pendulum swing from the Road Warriors to the H-1B’s.
And now we are seeing it swing once again to the green card holders who will be similar to the Road Warriors which will force the corporations once again to seek a new form of cheap, compliant labor who will be shackled to their jobs.
When will we learn from our history and better yet, when will our government learn that it is up to them to balance the needs of capital and the rights of labor?