Mass layoffs in the U.S. tech industry have been in the news since November 2022. Giants such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon have together laid off nearly 200,000 IT professionals. Many of these terminated employees have penned their stories on LinkedIn, highlighting the financial and emotional impact of the layoffs.
In the recent waves of layoffs, around 30 to 40 percent of the impacted employees – between 60,000 to 80,000 people – were Indian IT professionals. Now these Indian nationals are struggling to find other employment in the United States and navigate the strict regimes of H-1B and L1 visas, lest they face deportation. Moving forward, will these layoffs spark a reimagination of the American Dream that is harbored by Indians?
The 2.7 million Indian immigrants residing in the United States comprise 6 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population, making Indians the second largest immigrant group in the United States. The strong belief that the U.S. is a land of equal opportunities and merit supersedes all other factors, including the difficulty of securing visas. The American Dream continues to inspire millions of India to seek job opportunities in the United States.
A recent survey titled “The Expat Insider Survey,” conducted by InterNations in 2021, revealed that 59 percent of Indians abroad relocated for their careers. The key reasons for this relocation, as highlighted by the survey, are work-life balance, good compensation or good benefits, flexible working hours, the opportunity to work remotely or from home, and their general career development. In comparison to the West, a survey conducted in 2019 by the online portal Monster.com revealed that 60 percent of the working professionals in India who participated in this survey rated their work-life balance from average to terrible.
Although working in the United States once seemed more attractive for overall career prospects, thanks to the recent layoffs, tens of thousands of Indian nationals face an uncertain future. These layoffs will also have a direct impact on future generations of Indians who aspire to go abroad for better job opportunities.
A large section of India’s population dreams of securing an undergraduate seat at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) located across India. Several U.S. tech giants, such as Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, and Google directly recruit from the IITs. Later, many of these employees relocate to the United States.
For many Indian families, a seat at an IIT means a change in the entire future of their families, as students would be recruited by these U.S. tech giants. However, now with the layoffs, these companies are barely hiring from the IITs. In fact, as a direct outcome of these layoffs, many IIT students are opting for India-based companies as opposed to U.S.-based tech companies.
India should seize this opportunity and attempt to convert the brain drain to a brain gain. Unless the central government of India creates significant employment opportunities for its increasing young population, the future of India will remain bleak. The government needs to present India as a land of opportunity to retain the educated youth of the country.
That is particularly the case when it comes to women. This year, women accounted for 30 percent of the IIT-JEE pool. This is a milestone, as women’s representation in one of the leading entrance exams in the engineering stream has increased by huge margins. However, unless these female students later receive good employment opportunities, the upcoming generation of women will not be motivated to pursue their engineering dreams.
The layoffs in the United States should be a lesson for India to create better employment opportunities for its professional class, to retain the best brains of the country.