Germany loses allure for Indian techies amid unemployment

Wednesday, 24 March 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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BERLIN: Rising unemployment and unabated layoffs in the IT industry in Germany is beginning to take a heavy toll on the Indian technology professionals based here.

Industry sources say as more and more German companies resort to cutting costs, Indian IT experts will not only find it difficult to get employment in Germany in the future but even those holding jobs face the possibility of losing them.

"I came to Germany a few years back to work as a software engineer for a medium-sized IT company," says N.T. Narayanan, who came from Bangalore when Germany decided to source IT experts from India under its "green card" programme.

"But I lost my job six months ago and have not found one yet. I have called several friends to help but they tell me that the job situation is very bad as hundreds of thousands of German IT experts are themselves jobless," Narayanan told IANS.

The Indian technology professional is now desperately trying to find a prospective employer in the US.

In the late 1990s, Germany's tech sector faced the prospect of losing out to its competitors, who managed to assert themselves in the global arena by using cheaper and skilled labour provided by countries like India and the Philippines.

To cope with the situation, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had said in 2000 that Germany would relax its rigid labour laws and allow companies to hire foreign IT experts under its "green card" programme.

The "green card" programme, which has now become obsolete, was meant to be a fast track procedure under which Indian and other foreign IT experts would be hired for a maximum period of five years.

Some 4,000 Indians were recruited under the programme though many have now lost their jobs. A large number of these jobless IT experts hope to find a job in the US while others want to return to India.

Germany's Labour Office has dashed hopes of any near-term recovery for the ever-increasing queues of unemployed IT experts.

Bernhard Hohn, an expert with the German Labour Office, acknowledged that the "green card" programme lost its allure once the IT bubble burst.

He said recruits from India and other countries had become a "problem" since they were unable to find any jobs in a market which had, in a matter of few years, been transformed from an employee's to an employer's market.

A spokesman of the Zentralstelle fuer Arbeitsvermittlung (ZAV), which helps recruit specialists for German companies, told IANS that there was "little hope" of a revival in the near future.

"The time when employers used to pamper their staff with all kinds of benefits and incentives is passé. We have no jobs available for foreign IT specialists, including Indians," he said.

By the end of 2003, there had been only 1,654 vacancies for which 18,381 candidates applied. "Its a tough time for Indian IT specialists; the employer has a wide choice of candidates to pick from," said the spokesman.

Some resilient Indians in Germany are, however, trying to turn the current situation in their favour by offering their expertise on India to German companies interested in outsourcing to India.

India has emerged as a favourite outsourcing destination for many German companies, though Russia and other East European countries are also emerging as competitors because of their low-cost economies and geographical proximity.

Source: IANS
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