Sunday, March 14, 2010

Global Job Market: When the game of musical chairs stops

It is almost two years since the meltdown in US financial market, downturn of the economy, crash of housing market etc etc hit us. And the reverberations continue to be felt on economies across the globe. As a technologist, employee of a large offshoring firm and observer of globalization, I have been musing on the impact this is having on a generation of hi-tech workers.

Over the weekend, I was talking to a friend, a seasoned IT professional in New Jersey, who has been job hunting for more than a few weeks. The conversation with Bob made me reflect on the game of musical chairs we used to play ages ago.

The current stagnation of talent in the tech sector is almost like a game of musical chairs gone bad. Even a few years ago, a healthy level of attrition would mean opportunities opening up at firms, and other professionals moving on to fill those slots; their slots in turn being available for others to move into, and so on. The impact of downturn is obvious: it is almost like the music has stopped, the number of chairs reduced and more than a few players unfortunately find themselves standing, out of the game. And those still in the game are waiting with bated breath for the music to begin.

You would think this is a dream-come-true for HR managers and tech executives: seeing single digit attrition of programmers, analysts, managers and other IT professionals. Far from it, the current stagnation is causing tech executives and managers a different kind of anxiety: how to invigorate their talent pool when there is no attrition?

The long tail of globalization of hi-tech job market extends across the world:

* Impact on H1 Visas and global immigration: in the past years, the US work-visa quota would be filled in a day or matter of days by companies eager to hire foreign workers. (H1B Cap FY 2010 Not Hit)
* The impact of slowdown in American job market is also being felt directly across the globe 'India Inc's hiring slows down 3.6% in August'
ECB's Nowotny: European Economy Is Still "Very Weak"


With all this doom-and-gloom talk, where is the silver lining in the dark cloud? Recent data suggests that “Job openings rose sharply earlier this year, evidence that employers are slowly ramping up hiring as the economy improves

What this means to you and me is obvious: those left standing in the game of musical chairs are going to find a new game to play; and the rest of us still in the game are obviously going to find the music has been turned on again.

And another sign of times? President Obama just turned up the ante on immigration debate. And when you see the western media running regular articles on ‘problems of immigration’ signaling the flow of immigrants; yet another sign of a thriving economies: jobs to go around; jobs enough to attract immigrants from across the globe!