CAN CHINESE POLICY MITIGATE THE PRESENT JOB CRISIS IN OUR IT INDUSTRY?
During the year 1997 – 2000, the ‘dot-com’ bubble or the ‘Information Technology bubble’, which had experienced sudden extreme growth & excessive speculation in the use & adaptation of Internet technology in business sector, had suddenly collapsed in 2000-2002, resulting in the closure of many internet based companies & in respect of a few well known companies, their stock prices collapsed considerably resulting in the loss of jobs for computer programmers & created a glut in the Job market.
Today, after 15 years, we read in the media, that a similar situation has crept up in the I T sector due to digitization & automation making deeper inroads, many big companies laying off a large number of IT Professionals. There is a deluge of professionals who have been issued pink slips. The reason attributed for this job loss is that the present I T workforce are un-trainable for the newly required skillsets for making use of the new Digital technologies & automation that are being increasingly used in the upcoming industries as well as a dip in their market share of orders. The situation has been further aggravated by Mr.Trump’s policy -‘Jobs for Americans’. For the work force in the age group of thirties with young families, sudden loss of job, has come as a sharp blow driving them to despair & depression.
Few years back, when these youngsters on their employment, were offered very good starting salaries & perks, which many of them have invested in their dream houses, luxury cars, admission of their kids into well known international schools, living a high lifestyle etc., & suddenly, landing themselves without a job with financial and emotional upheaval, with an added stigma, that their skillsets are not suitable for the emerging technologies, is a very big shock, rocking their sense of purpose & self esteem, ultimately driving them into depression. Taking advantage of this situation, many help line companies / counseling centres have come up offering online services.
Deviating from the above subject, I would like to share a bit of my experience with Chinese Govt.’s philosophy. During 1990’s , I had the privilege of working for a leading Steel plant group which was interested in setting up a Power plant based on using the Blast Furnace exhaust gas as fuel. We had floated a global tender inviting offers for the power plant from all the leading power plant builders, including one from China. Techno-Commercial Offers were received from all the vendors. Our management was very much surprised why we had floated the tender to a Chinese Co, since globally, they had not executed any plant till then, except in their own country. We knew that the Chinese vendor in order to bag this maiden prestigious international order, would quote their lowest price which we wanted to use during negotiations to bring down the price of the other vendors. We invited the Chinese supplier for Techno Commercial negotiations. Normally for such discussions, a team of technical & commercial persons numbering about 2/3 persons from each vendor, attend the discussions for a day or two. Surprisingly we received a letter from this Chinese vendor giving the names of about 16 persons & requested us to send an invitation for all these persons, so that they can approach their Govt. for their travel Visas. We asked them why so many persons were required for a Techno commercial discussion, we got a reply saying that their team include technocrats from Blast furnace, Furnace gas handling experts, commercial team, Translator etc. & when such a list is forwarded to their Govt. they will scale down the number substantially while granting the Visa. This was something we had not experienced so far & as requested by them, we sent our invitation to all the 16 persons. Subsequently we got a confirmation from them that a team of about 8 persons would be attending the discussions and we were asked to arrange for their accommodation in a nearby hotel, where they wanted four double rooms (Two persons to stay in each room) & the daily room rental incl. breakfast for 2 persons, should not exceed about 100/-US$, in short 400/- US$ for the entire team per day. This limitation was due to their Govt.’s restriction in their daily allowances. In addition to the above they requested free transport for their team. (Comparatively , during that time, our Indian engineers were given over 200/- US$ /day when deputed abroad.) The purpose of explaining this here is, that the philosophy of Chinese Govt. was to send as many persons as possible at the lowest cost, providing them exposure to techno - commercial discussions / their visit to our integrated steel plant in general & Blast furnace in detail etc.
Subsequently I had to attend a technical meeting with General Electric Co. USA (Power plant Division). When I landed at their plant, I saw two bus loads of Chinese delegation numbering about 35 / 40 persons getting down from the buses & walking into the GE plant. When I met the GE official, on casual enquiry, he informed me that GE had received an order from the Chinese Govt. for two identical Power plants & under the terms & conditions of the order GE had to train about 40 Engineers in various fields of the Power plant project for about 4/5 months. Out of this team I had seen several persons of the age group 60+ & I was informed that these seniors were Professors from Chinese University to be trained by GE on the latest Power Plant technology. These Professors after going back, will have to introduce the new technology into their university syllabus. Regarding accommodation, he informed me that all of them were provided a hostel with a Common kitchen & cooking facilities.
From the above two instances, the objective of the Chinese Govt., was not only to get exposure of training to as many engineers as possible at the lowest cost, but also utilize it for upgrading the syllabus at their universities. With this philosophy, it is no wonder China has progressed very fast in the field of technology.
Coming back to the present situation of Indian I T sector laying off their employees giving not even 24 hrs. of notice, is rather very inhuman. (Recent conversation between an HR person & an helpless employee which went viral in media is a glaring example of this inhuman attitude). On one side, the Senior executives like CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s etc., get a salary rise of 300% to 400% and in the same organization many are given pink slips on the pretext of lack of skillsets in the new technology, lack of orders etc., causing financial and emotional upheaval in the lives of the youngsters. It is high time that IT sector review their thinking.
In a scenario where the organization is experiencing lack of orders due to the newly emerging technology in the fields of Digitization & Automatiom / Artificial Intelligence etc., instead of laying off valuable human resources on one side to cut the cost & on the other side paying very huge increase In salaries to top officials will only demoralize the entire organization, instead, the thinking should be other way. During such a period of crisis, reduce the salary levels marginally of all the employees in general, & the seniors should volunteer to forego more from their salary and from the savings thus achieved, instead of laying off, the employees should be trained to acquire the new skills required by the industry. This sort of sacrifice from top to bottom during a period of crisis, will be appreciated by all the employees and would motivate them to work. The above concept of the Chinese Govt. to distribute the available resources among more number of persons, to acquire the skill & technology is really going to benefit organizations in the long run. Why not this concept be tried to mitigate the job crisis in our IT Industry?.
(Author: C.V.Govinda Raju, (Former) Executive Director of Karnataka Vidyuth Karkhane Limited & (Former) President of ISPAT Group Company)