San Francisco/New Delhi: As then US President Donald Trump tightened the rules around H1-B visa and asked global firms to invest more and hire Americans in the country, IT software major Infosys also ramped up its hiring of American workers, but many of those young workers found themselves getting paid handsomely and do nothing, The Verge has reported.
Infosys, a global leader in consulting, technology and next-generation services, in September 2020 announced that it plans to hire 12,000 American workers over the next two years, bringing its hiring commitment in the country to 25,000 over five years.
In 2017, Infosys had committed to hiring 10,000 American workers over two years and exceeded that goal by creating 13,000 jobs in the US.
According to The Verge report, when Infosys has more employees than it needs for its clients, those spare employees end up on the “Bench”, where they are, in effect, paid to do nothing.
At first, being on the “Bench” had its perks, particularly for Josh, who worked remotely due to the pandemic.
“I ended up playing a lot of video games,” he said.
But his time on the “Bench” began to wear on him for reasons he found difficult to describe to his family and friends,” the report quoted Josh as saying.
“It was really hard to explain to them why I felt like it was a bad thing,a Josh added. “They were just likea ‘Well, you’re getting paid to do nothing, how could that be bad? That sounds like a dream job.'”
Infosys’ three-decade reliance on the H-1B visas came under siege during the Trump administration, which instituted new rules in 2020 targeting the visa programme.
According to Infosys, the Trump era visa restrictions were tangential to the company’s expansion in the US.
“We are continuing to do what we are doing in spite of the fact that there is a new administration in the US,” Infosys’ President Ravi Kumar told The Verge. Instead, Kumar added, the change was driven by Infosys’ clients, who wanted their contractors to be closer to home.
As Infosys expanded across the US, politicians also showered the company with tax breaks.
“In Indiana, Infosys’ planned headquarters granted it $101.8 million in subsidies, one of the largest incentive packages in the state’s history. And in Connecticut, a proposed smaller 1,000-person headquarters gained the company up to $14 million in subsidies, with the final amount conditional on hiring all 1,000 workers,” the report mentioned.
Other Indian companies also took cognizance of the situation.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) had announced that it would hire 10,000 workers by 2022, having previously hired 21,500 workers between 2015 and 2020.
Stuart, another Infosys employee in the US, was hired to be a business analyst, and Infosys “paid him to attend a short-term training programme to learn how to be one”.
But that enthusiasm faded when Stuart reportedly finished his training and was promptly put on the “Bench”.
“Eventually, you see people bringing in a deck of cards to work. There’s no supervision; there’s nothing to do; there’s no projects to get on, but we’re required to be there,” he was quoted as saying.
So when a position opened up, Stuart took it. It was an IT support desk project, a position he described as “being a call centre employee”.
“I now have nominally two years of experience in IT, but I definitely don’t have two years of business analyst experience. People don’t view me as having enough experience,” Stuart added.
In September 2020, Kumar had said: “While we continue to leverage our established university partnerships to strengthen our talent pool, our recently launched aReskill and Restart’ platform will play a crucial role in our growth as we meet this commitment (in the US).”
“We will bring a specific focus on building pathways for those who have been impacted by the economic downturn and look forward to bringing on board individuals without traditional four-year degrees. Workers who have been left out of the digital economy will now have the opportunity to gain the skills needed for 21st-century careers,” he had said.
In the past couple of years, Infosys launched six technology and innovation centres in the US across Indiana, North Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Texas, and Arizona.