Many Indian technology workers have lost their jobs in recent months which is hurting the middle class of India. India’s information technology industry which builds and test software, enters and analyzes data, and provides customer support has been booming for about 20 years due to American and European companies offshoring jobs to India because of the relatively inexpensive labor. The industry generates more than $150 billion in annual revenue and employs about four million people.
Companies are now beginning to rely on robots and machines that are now replacing Indian workers. “What we’re seeing is an acceleration in shedding for jobs in India and an adding of jobs onshore,” said Sandra Notardonato, an analyst and research vice president for Gartner, a research and advisory company. “Even if these companies don’t have huge net losses, there’s a person who will suffer, and that’s a person with a limited skill set in India.”
V. Mohandas Pai, a longtime industry figure, estimates the cuts will encompass up to 2 percent of the work force by September. A 2015 study released by the National Association of Software and Services Companies, the Indian technology industry trade group known as Nasscom, and McKinsey India found that 50 to 70 percent of workers’ skills would be irrelevant by 2020. Workers hope that this new artificial intelligence technology will eventually shift jobs in tech instead of eliminate them all together. However, some worry that these new jobs will stay in the United States as President Trump tightens visa laws for Indian workers. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Indian minister who oversees the technology industry, recently denied that major layoffs, “the question of slackness in jobs is absolutely factually incorrect,” he said. “Obviously, those who don’t perform will have to go.”
Competition to get an outsourcing job at an IT company is fierce. Many people in India view these jobs as a stepping stone into middle class life. Ashwin Kotnala graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in technology and has applied for more than 20 positions but has not gotten an offer from any. “Everyone wants to work with IT firms because of a good salary. I’ve not got placed, but if I get placed in I.T. company, then I’ll do better and make my parents proud,” she stated.
Dinesh Shende, a 38-year-old developer at Tech Mahindra who said he was forced to resign in February, looked for work for months “now employers say reskilling is needed — it is your responsibility,” he said. “We are ready to reskill ourselves. But will the next company employ us?The next employer will try to take benefit of the situation.” Mr. Shende implies that employers will cut wages of workers even further when they finally find new tech jobs. Mr. Choudhari, another worker was laid off stated something similar, “it is not something that only the employee is responsible,” said of upgrading his skills. Employers, he said, “are also responsible.”
P. Gurnani, Tech Mahindra’s chief executive, stated, “as you know, the talent factors are changing, the technology is changing, consumers are changing. And we need to make sure that our people are changing with the time.”
Workers from Tech Mahindra have signed petitions alleging forced resignations and baseless firings to the local labor commissioner.Some tech workers have begun to organize and unionize and there is talk of government interference which may hurt competitiveness in India’s job market.
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