Over the past decade, IBM hired frenetically in India, and cut jobs in the US in an effort to be cost competitive with Indian IT services providers. Now, the Big Blue appears to be changing track, goaded perhaps by the Obama administration’s social and tax pressures, and the US work visa restrictions.
However, other global IT services companies like Ireland-registered Accenture and France-based Capgemini are continuing to keep their hiring focus on India.
IBM’s ‘Jobs at IBM’ website currently lists about 6,750 jobs, of which nearly a third, 2,150, are in the US. India follows way behind at a little over 700, and China is third with about 650. More striking are the entry level positions. Of the total of 446 entry level positions open as on September 2, as many as 172, or nearly 40%, are in the US. In India, there are a mere five.
An employee of the company in India said the internal job portal now shows certain IT positions with 1-2 years’ experience reserved for US citizens. “I can’t recollect such entry level positions earlier being reserved for US citizens,” he said.
When contacted, IBM did not directly address the matter, but issued the following statement: “Managing resources and skills is an ongoing and critical component of our business model. IBM continues to meet the changing requirements of its clients, and to pioneer new, high value segments of the IT industry. To that end, IBM is positioning itself to lead in growth areas such as cloud, analytics and cognitive computing and investing in these priority areas. Investing in and hiring talent from over 100 college campuses in India continues to be part of the strategy.”
US tech entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa said he would not know if the IBM hiring trends were accurate, but said it would not surprise him. “IBM, like other US companies, is surely under pressure from nativists to hire more Americans. The noise is only getting louder. But it may be that IBM is trying to balance its growth and that is what is behind such a strategy,” he said.
The years of frenzied hiring has resulted in India now accounting for over a third of IBM’s 4.3 lakh employees (these are estimates, given that IBM has stopped disclosing its headcount by geography). In the US, the number has dropped from a peak of 1.53 lakh in 2000, to an estimated 88,000 now.