Friday, March 31, 2017

H-1B Visa Abuse; Flynn's Immunity Request; Muslim NATO's Pakistani Commander

Why is H-1B visa abuse in the news? Why are Indian companies under suspicion as the chief abusers? Why does the lion's share of H-1B visas goes to Indians? Are H-1B visa holders replacing higher-paid ($95,000+ per year) American tech workers at significantly lower pay ($60,000 per year)? What proposals are under discussion to control this abuse?

Source: Glassdoor

How has President Trump performed in his first two months since inauguration? Why has he lost the key battles for Muslim ban and Obamacare repeal/replace?

Why is President Trump's ex NSA General Michael Flynn seeking immunity from prosecution before offering testimony in the investigation of Trump campaign's Russia links? Did he do something that could lead to his criminal prosecution without immunity? What possible impact would Flynn's testimony have on the Trump presidency?

What are the objectives of the Saudi coalition force variously described as "Muslim NATO" or "anti-Shia" alliance? What signal does the appointment of General Raheel Sharif to head this coalition send to the world? Is it an endorsement by Pakistan of the coalition? How is Iran reacting to it? What are its implications for Pakistan's sectarian violence?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these issues with Riaz Haq (

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

H-1B Visa Abuse

Trump's Muslim Ban

Trump's Key Appointments

Does America Share Responsibility for Rise of ISIS?

Gen Petraeus Debunks Allegations of Duplicity Against Pakistan

Iran-Saudi Conflict

Talk4Pak Youtube Channel


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Approves Military Hero to Head Tricky Saudi-Led Alliance

The appointment of a popular Pakistani general to head a Saudi-led alliance of Muslim countries has set off a furor in Pakistan, amid fears that the move could exacerbate sectarian tensions at home.

Pakistan’s government last week approved the appointment of a former army chief, Raheel Sharif, to lead the Islamic Military Alliance, a posting announced by Saudi Arabia in January. The alliance includes several dozen mainly Muslim countries with the professed aim of countering terrorism, although it has taken no significant military actions, least of all fighting the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq.

Saudi officials have argued that the alliance’s Muslim identity will make it more effective in combating Islamic extremists, while sending a powerful message that Muslim countries reject their ideology.

But critics note that the alliance does not include predominately Shiite states like Iran and Iraq, making it more of a Sunni military alliance than an “Islamic” one. Still, the appointment of Mr. Sharif would give the Saudi-led alliance a more international sheen. Saudi Arabia has also been seeking support from Pakistan for its campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen and may be hoping Mr. Sharif’s appointment could bolster that effort.


Saudi Arabia is a major donor to Pakistan and maintains close ties with its civil and military elite. It has appealed to Pakistan for military help with its campaign in Yemen against the Houthi rebels, who are aligned with Iran and belong to the Zaydi Shiite sect.

But Pakistan has so far stayed out of the operation, which is being conducted by Saudi Arabia and a smaller coalition of Arab countries. Egypt, too, has turned down requests for help in Yemen despite receiving considerable financial aid from Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan’s Parliament passed a resolution in 2015 urging the government to stay neutral in Yemen, where more than 10,000 people have been killed, mainly in airstrikes, since Saudi Arabia began its campaign.

So far, the government has complied, but its inability to rally support behind the Saudi military effort has been embarrassing for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who lived in exile in the Saudi city of Jidda in the early 2000s. (Mr. Sharif, the prime minister, is not related to the former army chief.)

Now, the former army chief’s presence at the head of the Islamic Military Alliance could signal a change in policy, analysts say.

Mr. Sharif’s appointment “is a bit of a departure from Pakistan’s more-or-less neutral position on the Iran-Saudi regional war,” said Arif Rafiq, a political analyst. “As a result, it’s been opposed by even the mainstream, nonsectarian political voices in Pakistan.”


Nasser Janjua, the Pakistani national security adviser, said last week that Mr. Sharif would play a visible, proactive role in the military alliance. Mr. Sharif will “use his experiences and knowledge to remove internal misunderstandings among Muslim countries,” Mr. Janjua was quoted as saying by local news media. He did not elaborate.

Pervez Musharraf, a former army chief who ruled Pakistan as president from 2001 to 2008, was hugely popular as a general but faced a backlash once he shed his uniform and dabbled in politics. Mr. Sharif’s predecessor, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was also highly regarded, but became a figure of controversy after he extended his military term as corruption allegations swirled around his family.

Mr. Sharif, on the other hand, remains untainted by charges of corruption or nepotism.

“I think Raheel Sharif will be forever remembered in Pakistan as the man who boldly took on the Pakistani Taliban,” Mr. Rafiq, the analyst, said. “Many Pakistanis feel that he literally saved the country and restored its morale. This new position is unlikely to change those sentiments.”

Riaz Haq said...

With its bad #engineers and horrible #internet, #India is far from becoming the next #SiliconValley via @qzindia
...However, surprisingly, India fared poorly, ranking 26 out of the 28 major global tech hubs evaluated in HackerRank’s April 06 report (paywall).
The coding recruitment platform rated each country on nine factors: corruption perception, english-language proficiency, competition for talent from other tech companies, average salary, rent, taxes, internet speed, STEM grads, and skill. Overall, Singapore topped the list because it had “the lowest taxes, fastest internet & exceptional talent.” Last year, the Singaporean government committed $19 billion towards R&D and the local engineering ecosystem, while Google expanded its office in the city-state to 1,000 engineers.
India’s weaknesses

While India ranked fourth for its supply of cost-efficient engineering talent, it ranked 19th on skill sets as the quality of its talent is questionable. Besides, it isn’t going to stay cheap forever. “The developer cost, the executive cost, was supposed to be at least 50% (compared to Silicon Valley). Now it’s like 75%. And it’s not going down, it’s only going up,” says Ravisankar. India is also at the bottom on corruption and taxes. Moreover, the time difference with the US doesn’t

make life any easier.
Most importantly, India is the worst when it comes to the internet.
An Economist Intelligence Unit study of internet inclusiveness ranked India first among 75 countries on policies to ensure connectivity. However, network availability and quality in the country were deeply flawed. A 3Q 2016 Akamai report says India’s 4.1 megabits per second (Mbps) average internet speed is Asia’s slowest. Frequent power cuts in pockets of the country and a sizeable chunk of the population—240 million—lacking power supply, only add to the chaos.
Where to go

As the Trump administration clamps down on immigrant workers, companies in the Valley—the biggest tech behemoths and up to 19,000 startups—will probably seek innovation hubs outside the US. Even otherwise, the region is approaching saturation.
HackerRank designed an interactive tool that lists the top countries for users based on parameters that matter to them. “Large companies like Google or Facebook might care less about cost than a startup. Smaller, more agile companies may prioritize cost-effectiveness and skill level to hire developers who can start coding on day-one,” the report states. “If you’re anticipating overseas collaboration, then low corruption levels and language barriers could take priority.” For instance, despite its shortcomings, a company that values cost savings above all might find India favourable due to the low rents and cheap labour costs here.

The following are HackerRank’s top five countries for collaboration, cost, and talent, and their rankings in the sub-categories used to determine them.
COLLABORATION Internet English Corruption
1. Singapore 1 8 5
2. Canada 12 1 6
3. UK 10 1 9
4. New Zealand 17 1 3
5. Ireland 13 1 10
COST Salary Taxes Rent
1. Egypt 1 14 1
2. Bulgaria 8 5 4
3. The Philippines 2 13 8
4. India 4 23 3
5. Hungary 7 15 5
TALENT STEM Grads Skill Competition
1. China 1 1 20
2. Taiwan 3 5 5
3. Russia 9 2 14
4. Poland 8 3 11
5. Hungary 25 4 12

While these locations show promise, Silicon Valley remains a class apart. “I think Silicon Valley is still one of the best places to start a company because of infrastructure, for things like Y-Combinator, and other investors,” says Ravisankar. “People there have solved the social network problem. People have built YouTube, people have built Paypal, people have built Square.”

Riaz Haq said...

Trump Puts India First
By Tim Culpan

"Putting American Workers First," reads the bold headline on the home page of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, proclaiming: "New Measures to Detect H-1B Visa Fraud and Abuse."A click through to the April 3 statement outlines steps the agency will take to clamp down on the use of temporary visas for foreign workers in specialty occupations. Among the areas of focus: "Employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location."Indian technology companies are in the cross hairs. Outsourcing providers such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd. and Wipro Ltd. are contracted by U.S. firms and government agencies to deploy programmers and engineers. This usually happens at the client's premises instead of their own offices: that is, "offsite."

Indian nationals are so dominant in the H-1B program that they accounted for 195,247, or 70.1 percent, of all beneficiaries in 2015. PROPORTION OF H-1B VISAS THAT GO TO INDIANS70.1%Whatever the impact on these outsourcing companies, the crackdown is already hurting the net worth of their billionaire founders as investors anticipate tightened enforcement will hurt earnings, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday. Tata Consultancy has lost about 3 percent since the U.S. administration announced on March 3 it would suspend premium processing of H-1B visas, lagging a 2.8 percent advance in the benchmark Sensex index.

Riaz Haq said...

#India biggest loser as #Australia decides to abolish 457 #immigration work visas | The News Minute. #h1bvisa

Adopting a new "Australians first" approach to skilled migration, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that he will be abolishing the existing 457 Visa programme, currently used by temporary foreign workers to gain employment in the country.

The 457 Visa programme is used mainly to hire foreign workers in the restaurant, IT and medical industries and the majority of such visa holders came from India, Britain and China, reported the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday.

According to government statistics, 95,758 people were living in Australia under 457 Visa programme last year, with the highest proportion coming from India (24.6 per cent), followed by Britain (19.5 per cent) and China (5.8 per cent).

Turnbull used Facebook to announce the policy, which he said would "put jobs first" and "Australians first", signalling a reduction in the occupations available to skilled foreign workers and raising the threshold to qualify.

"We are putting jobs first, we are putting Australians first," he said. "We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains that Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs."

Stating that Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, he said: "We will no longer allow 457 Visa system to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians."

At a press conference in Canberra, Turnbull said the 457 Visa system needed to be replaced because it had "lost its credibility".

The scheme will be replaced by two temporary visas that will impose tougher English language tests, stricter labour market testing, at least two years of work experience and a mandatory police check.

The numbers of jobs eligible for the two-year and four-year visa streams will be slashed, with 216 occupations ranging from antique dealer to fisheries officer to shoe-maker, axed from a list of 651 professions on the list.

Accounting giant KPMG criticised the decision, saying "there is no evidence the current system is not working".

However, Turnbull dismissed that claim, arguing the abolition of the 457 Visa regime was "a decision of my government... this has been a careful exercise in policy development", reported the daily.

Riaz Haq said...

From CBS 60 Minutes on hi-b abuse:

Craig Diangelo says at Northeast Utilities the fired workers pressured to stay and train their replacements launched a quiet protest.

Craig Diangelo: Every one of us that would be let go had an American flag sticking out the cubicles row after row after row. As we were let go--those flags were taken down. I was the last person let go. I went in and I took the last picture. There were no more flags left. You have a queasiness in your stomach when you look around and you’re saying, “This-- this-- this can’t be possible. This didn’t happen.”

But it did happen, to Craig and Dawn and Leo and workers at hundreds of companies across the country. Former head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, now president of the University of California, faced a huge public outcry when she got rid of those 80 IT jobs at the Medical Center. She declined to give us an on camera interview, but stated publicly that the university, quote “didn’t use the H-1B process in the right way.” She instructed the Indian-outsourcing company to stop using H-1B workers.
But that comes too late for Kurt Ho and Robert Harrison. Three weeks ago they packed up – their final day at the Medical Center.

Robert Harrison: It’s gonna be a matter of time before everybody else feels the same burden, the same pinch, the same hurt that we’re feeling right here at UCSF. It’s a matter of time.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump signs executive order tightening rules on #H1B visa program. Will impact #India the most via @NewsHour

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to tighten the rules for technology companies seeking to bring highly skilled foreign workers to the U.S.

The order Trump signed at the Kenosha, Wisconsin, headquarters of tool maker Snap-on Inc. targets the H-1B visa program. The White House says the program undercuts American workers by bringing in large numbers of cheaper foreign workers, which drives down U.S. wages.

The order directs U.S. agencies to propose rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse in the program.

Agencies are also being asked to suggest changes so that H-1B visas are granted to the “most-skilled or highest-paid applicants.”

Trump says the order sends a “powerful signal to the world” that the U.S. will defend its workers, protect their jobs and put America first. He narrowly carried Wisconsin in November on the strength of support from white, working class voters. But Trump is currently facing a 41 percent approval in the state.

Riaz Haq said...

#IT #technology sector dims as beacon of #Indian job creation. #TCS #Infosys #h1b #Trump … via @FT

TCS, the largest of India’s powerful IT services companies, set up the lab 18 months ago to enable new starters to work on the “internet of things”, the field of connected machines and appliances that is one of the company’s fast-growing areas of business — and one on which the company’s future depends.

Since then, the young team has produced three ideas the company will now market to clients, including a system enabling technicians to find data on an appliance by looking at it through smart glasses and another that creates alerts when machines are at risk of malfunctioning.

“We’ve moved away from the repetitive work — we’re getting a chance to learn something new each day, so it doesn’t become monotonous,” says Priyanshi Saxena, 23.

But while the shift to disruptive new technologies has opened exciting new opportunities for Ms Saxena, it is fuelling concerns about the job prospects for others in her generation, as India agonises over how to find gainful employment for its booming adult population.

The IT services industry, a totem of India’s increasingly modern, outward-facing economy, has been a powerful driver of skilled job creation over the past three decades, and employs about 4m people. 

While the sector continues to add new workers, however, employment growth has been slowing, lagging well behind revenue growth: 150,000 new positions were created in the sector during the last financial year, according to trade body Nasscom, down from 230,000 three years before.

That trend reflects the increasing importance of new fields of business such as data analytics and connected devices, which Nasscom predicts will account for at least 38 per cent of industry revenue by 2025. This cutting-edge work tends to be driven by relatively small numbers of highly specialised workers, unlike the labour-intensive software installation and management work in which the companies first made their mark.

“What we hired last year was less than a year before, and this year will be a bit less again,” says Ajoy Mukherjee, TCS head of human resources. “It’s the story of any automation — technology makes human beings more productive. So revenue per person will go up, and the team size delivering one unit of revenue will go down.”

With 1m young people entering the workforce each month, fears of insufficient job creation loom increasingly large in India. Demand for skilled labour has held up better than for blue-collar workers over the past five years, but “now seems about to conk off comprehensively”, brokerage Ambit Capital warned in February, noting structural shifts in the IT industry as a key factor. 

A further shadow over the IT industry has been cast by the election of US President Donald Trump, who has launched a crackdown on the H-1B visa programme for skilled workers as part of his “Hire American” agenda.

But while this reform may weigh on margins, industry executives view the growth of automation and related areas as a more profound long-term shift.

The speed of change means a growing portion of new jobs will be temporary, enabling companies to bring in specialists for a few months as required, says Puneet Bhirani, head of human resources at Mphasis, another IT services company.

And while large numbers of highly skilled jobs could be created in the emerging areas, there are signs that Indian universities are not producing graduates with the relevant training, says Prasar Sharma at Mumbai’s SP Jain School of High Technology.

Riaz Haq said...

#H1B visas: #India talks tough, signals it may hit back over #US curbs. #Trump

India has signalled it could respond against the US move to restrict H-1B visas by capping the royalty payout by American companies in India to their parent firms.

Not only does the veiled threat signal a toughening of India’s stance, the move, if implemented, risks escalating into a full-blown trade war that could harm the otherwise warm relationship between the two countries.

“It is not just that Indian companies are in the US, several big US companies are in India too,” trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi. “They are earning their margins, they are earning their profits, which go to the US economy. It is a situation which is not where only the Indian companies have to face the US executive order. There are many US companies in India which are doing business for some years now. If this debate has to be expanded, it has to be expanded to include all these aspects. We shall ensure that all these factors are kept in mind.”

The trade minister, however, declined to be drawn into a confrontational stance, saying India still preferred a constructive dialogue.

Sitharaman’s remarks came two days after US President Donald Trump ordered a review of the H-1B visa regime for bringing skilled foreign workers into the US, a move that could undermine technology and outsourcing firms.

When asked whether there is a case for India to drag countries such as the US, Australia and New Zealand to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for raising barriers to the free movement of professionals, Sitharaman said: “At this stage I can only say that we will ensure that we engage with them constructively. At the same time, I have no hesitation (in) saying that India will ensure that it shall not accept unfair treatment.”

At the event, Sitharaman said countries like the US had provided a commitment to the WTO on the number of work visas they would provide, and India can question them if they didn’t live up to the commitment.

Riaz Haq said...

Less than 5% of #India engineers are cut out for high-skill programming jobs — Quartz #h1bvisa #SiliconValley

When considering Indian engineering talent, quantity trumps quality.
Indian universities may be churning out the world’s largest engineering population, but the graduates’ skills levels aren’t high. In 2011, India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies estimated that only 25% of India’s IT engineering graduates were employable. Six years on, the talent pool is still in dire straits.
“Only 4.77% candidates can write the correct logic for a program, a minimum requirement for any programming job,” a recent Aspiring Minds study of over 36,000 engineering students in India revealed. The employability assessment company tested students from IT-related streams of study at more than 500 colleges across India on Automata, a machine learning-based assessment of software development skills.

“The IT industry requires maintainable code so that it is less prone to bugs, is readable, reusable and extensible,” the study notes. “Time efficient code runs fast.” Only 1.4% of programmers surveyed could create code that was functionally correct and efficient, meaning it does what it’s supposed to do and in a reliable and speedy manner.
More than two-thirds of the candidates from the top 100 universities in the country were able to write “compilable code,” or that which does not throw errors when compiled into machine-readable code. In the rest of the colleges, only 31% of students were able to write compilable code.
One reason for the poor performance is the dearth of good instructors as well as misaligned college curriculums. “The school curriculum focusing on MS-Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc., rather teaching programming using elementary languages such as Basic and Logo is also the culprit,” said Varun Aggarwal, the co-founder and chief technology officer at Aspiring Minds.

Riaz Haq said...

More of #India's #IT engineers are under-skilled, unwanted, unemployed #h1b #Wipro #Cognizant #Infosys via @qzindia

These are difficult days for Indian techies, and it’s not going to get much better.
On April 21, reports suggested that Wipro, India’s third-largest information technology (IT) company, has laid off up to 600 employees. Meanwhile, US-based Cognizant is reportedly considering laying off 6,000 in India, where the bulk of its workforce is stationed. Earlier this year, Infosys, the country’s second-largest IT firm, acknowledged that it was “releasing” nearly 2,000 employees every quarter, and cutting back on recruitment.
And this may be only the beginning of the bloodbath.

For some time now, the $150-billion Indian IT industry, which directly and indirectly employs some 10 million people, has been bracing for a crisis. India could lose 640,000 low-skilled jobs in the industry by 2021, HfS Research, which analyses business operations and IT services, had warned in 2016. This was mainly because non-customer facing positions such as IT support jobs would likely be automated.
In a February 2017 study, consulting firm McKinsey estimated that about half of the 3.9 million employees of Indian IT services companies would become “irrelevant” within the next four years, again thanks to automation. And NASSCOM, the Indian IT industry’s trade lobby, also expects at least a 20% reduction in jobs available in the sector over the next three years.
“We are looking at re-skilling one million people because new technologies are reshaping the job market,” Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice-president at NASSCOM, told Moneycontrol News. “While the industry will remain a net hirer, the pace of job creation has come down.”
But re-skilling at that scale is easier said than done. Some 65% of the workforce in the sector just cannot be re-trained, reckoned Srinivas Kandula, head of French IT company Capgemini’s Indian operations. “Probably, India will witness the largest unemployment in the middle level to senior level,” Kandula, who has around 100,000 employees in the country, said at a NASSCOM event in February.