Recent tech layoffs have affected nearly 80,000 Indian IT employees, according to a new estimate

Recent tech layoffs have affected nearly 80,000 Indian IT employees, according to a new estimate

The flooded and volatile market is driving away employees at some of the world’s biggest tech giants. It’s a scary situation for new hires and skilled mid-career professionals alike, and it has a devastating impact on hundreds of thousands of foreign workers.(Opens in a new window) and visa holders. And, according to newly reported estimates, that impact could be disproportionately devastating for one population: Indian IT employees.

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The financial news site reported mintsome “industry insiders” estimate 30 to 40 percent of IT layoffs(Opens in a new window) affected employees on temporary work status from India. Given the national estimate of 200,000 IT employees directly affected by layoffs since November, this means that 80,000 people could face finding stable work within 60 days before being forced to return to their countries of origin.

Most of these employees, including a large number of technology workers from China(Opens in a new window), which is on non-immigrant work visas like the H-1B, a three-year temporary visa with the option to extend it. In 2022, many tech workers and advocates protested the current congressional limits(Opens in a new window), and a lack of oversight, for workers on visas such as the H-1B, which they say are often taken advantage of by needy tech employers. This follows an industry uproar prompted by a government decision in 2017 to suspend H-1B visas.(Opens in a new window)as well as an executive order signed by former President Donald Trump that required the issuance of H-1B visas to higher-wage and higher-educated employees(Opens in a new window), rather than through a lottery system. The Trump administration’s foreign labor decisions have had massive effects on women and spouses(Opens in a new window)also,(Opens in a new window) and even inciting global protests in countries that depend on international work opportunities, such as India.

Now, at the same time layoffs exceed the already approved band of employees and job opportunities are rarer and rarer.(Opens in a new window), demand for new H-1B visas has increased, especially in technology fields. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, computer-related jobs accounted for nearly 70 percent(Opens in a new window) of approved H-1B recipients in 2021. For 2023, the government agency received 483,000 applications, a 57 percent increase, according to Bloomberg Law(Opens in a new window). Many also do not have access to the visas, as the US government announced its plan to raise fees for H-1B sponsors.(Opens in a new window).

Employees faced with the sudden removal of both their sources of income and their immigration status rely on networks of people in similar situations. As mint reported, some are seeking help through international organizations such as the Global Indian Technology Professionals Association (GITPRO) and the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIDS), or networking websites for visa workers, such as Go Zeno.(Opens in a new window). Others are looking for informal ways to find these essential jobs, through Google Forms and career sites like LinkedIn(Opens in a new window), OUT reported in December. Even legal groups(Opens in a new window) stepping up to help employees search for visa-eligible work, with many searching for immigration options other than their H-1B status(Opens in a new window).

The tech industry is no stranger to ethical debates over bottom-line figures and their human costs, as recent cuts to the tech workforce coincide with industry-wide concerns about employee treatment. For example, the development of the popular AI application ChatGPT using underpaid workers in Kenya exposed employees to violent and graphic online content. Other workforces, such as call center employees based in countries such as India and the Philippines, face constant online harassment and even physical threats(Opens in a new window) in the workplace. And mechanization that goes so far as to hide the taste of employees through robotic “white noise” AI has contributed to the evolution of an increasingly faceless industry that is now shedding its staff in droves.

But beyond the impersonal scale of massive layoffs and company revenue targets are the lived realities of people doing skilled work – thousands of real people supporting real families with immediate needs, who are now struggling to protect their future.

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