Layoffs at some of the world’s largest tech giants are shaking up a flooded and volatile market. It’s a frightening state of affairs for new hires and skilled mid-career professionals, and it’s having a disastrous impact on hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers(Opens in a new window) and visa holders. And according to newly reported estimates, that impact may be disproportionately devastating to a single demographic: Indian IT workers.
Spotify’s layoffs are Big Tech’s latest cuts
Reported by the financial news site mintA number of “industry insiders” estimate that between 30 and 40 percent of IT layoffs will be avoided(Opens in a new window) affected employees with temporary employment status from India. With a nationwide estimate of 200,000 IT workers directly affected by layoffs since November, that means a potential 80,000 people now face the task of finding steady work within 60 days before being forced to return to their countries of origin to return.
Most of these employees, including a huge crowd of technicians from China(Opens in a new window), have nonimmigrant visas such as the H-1B, a three-year temporary visa with an option to extend. In 2022, many tech workers and advocates protested the current convention limits(Opens in a new window)and lack of oversight for workers on visas like H-1Bs, who they say are often exploited by needy tech employers. This follows an industry uproar sparked by a 2017 government decision to suspend H-1B visas(Opens in a new window)and an executive order signed by former President Donald Trump mandating the issuance of H-1B visas to higher-paid and higher-educated workers(Opens in a new window), rather than through a lottery system. The Trump administration’s overseas work decisions have had far-reaching implications for women and spouses(Opens in a new window)even,(Opens in a new window) and even sparked global protests in countries that depend on international job opportunities, like India.
At the same time, this group of already licensed employees is being inundated with layoffs and job opportunities are becoming increasingly scarce(Opens in a new window), the demand for new H-1B visas has increased, especially in technical fields. Computer-related jobs accounted for nearly 70 percent, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services(Opens in a new window) of approved H-1B recipients in 2021. For 2023, the government agency received 483,000 applications, an increase of 57 percent Bloomberg law(Opens in a new window). The visas are also becoming less accessible to many as the US government has announced its plan to increase fees for H-1B sponsors(Opens in a new window).
Employees coping with the sudden loss of their sources of income and immigrant status have relied on networks of people who have found themselves in similar situations. When mint Some are reportedly seeking support from international organizations such as the Global Indian Technology Professionals Association (GITPRO) and the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS), or from Visa staff networking sites such as Go Zeno(Opens in a new window). Others look for informal ways to find those necessary jobs, through Google Forms and career sites like LinkedIn(Opens in a new window), TIME reported December. Even rights groups(Opens in a new window) are stepping up to help employees find visa-eligible work as many seek immigration alternatives to their H-1B status(Opens in a new window).
The tech industry is familiar with ethical debates about numbers and their labor costs, as recent tech downsizing coincides with industry-wide concerns about the treatment of employees. For example, the development of the popular AI application ChatGPT with underpaid workers exposed employees to violent and graphic content online. Other workforces, such as call center workers in countries like India and the Philippines, face constant online harassment and even physical threats(Opens in a new window) at work. And mechanization, going so far as to mask employee accents with robotic, “white-sounding” AI, has helped develop an increasingly faceless industry that is now shedding staff in droves.
But beyond the impersonal scale of massive layoffs and corporate revenue targets, there is the lived reality of those doing skilled work – thousands of real people supporting real families with urgent needs who are now struggling to secure their futures.