Downward Dollar Delivers Blow to Outsourcing
Now, with India widely outperforming America in economic growth, more Indian college grads prefer to find work at home. The Indian currency has appreciated 13% since 2005, trading at approximately 39 rupees per dollar — 13% less pay as far as Indian specialists contemplating work in America are concerned. The dollar depreciation is a long-term trend forecasted by many economists and investors. Jay Bryson, an economist at Wachovia, is convinced that the US dollar may decline at least another 10 percent by the end of 2008. This prognosis, if realized, will certainly reduce US job appeal among Indian college graduates provided that the Indian economy is not weakened.
While US work experience is still coveted in India today, this attitude is not set in stone as more good paying jobs are created at home. Sachin Thareja, an Indian software developer and NYU graduate student, recalls how, in the late 1990s, students back in India joked that a fellow college graduate had one foot in India and another on Air India — on a one-way flight to the USA. After a recent visit to India, he says that this sentiment is no longer prevalent on Indian campuses. "Less people are willing to work in the US, and around 10% of those already here choose to return home."
The latest available data from US Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS) indicate that there were 78,200 new H1B visas issued to professionals in Fiscal Year 2008 — a 40% drop from the 130,497 visas issued in FY 2004. Granted, there are many more candidates than there are visas available, but so far US companies are able to choose from the list of best qualified candidates. Fast-growing foreign economies with appreciating currencies will certainly make this list shorter.
Vicrant Dogra, a fellow Indian programmer, draws a line in the sand at a 20 rupees per dollar exchange rate — an additional 49% rupee rise. "At that rate most professionals will stop coming to America if the Indian economy is growing at the current level", he declares. This is a bit dramatic, but even a small decrease in foreign labor supply will leave employers scrambling to find appropriate replacements, as it takes time to fill a shortage of skilled laborers. US health care may be affected in the long run because a substantial number of doctors hail from India and a weak dollar can, at the very least, discourage new doctors from coming here.
Fewer skilled professionals are coming to America from Russia. The current exchange rate is 24 rubles per 1 US dollar. Compared with a 2002 benchmark of 32 rubles, it is a staggering 25% rise. Kirill Levin, alumni of PhysTech (a flagship Russian research institute) and a senior quantitative analyst, says that fresh graduates from his alma mater who are looking to pursue academic careers still favor US universities and research centers. He admits, however, that fewer Russian professionals are coming to the United States than any time since the fall of the iron curtain. "It has to do more with the growing Russian economy than with the weak dollar," he argues. "Many professionals are making decent money in Moscow." Carolina Friedman, a quality manager at Transprefect Translations, who deals with South American companies, agrees. "In Argentina less people are looking to work abroad than before. We know several people who returned home from the US. Lately, Argentina's economy has improved."
The depreciating dollar may prove lethal to outsourcing. Employees hired by US companies based in foreign countries usually convert earned US dollars into their national currencies. A worker based in a country with an appreciating currency will get less money when paid the same amount of dollars. Serge Lubensky, CTO of Service Channel, a procurement, validation and electronic settlement platform for multilocation facilities maintenance transactions, notices the change in attitudes that the falling dollar is causing. "People ask for raises claiming that the cost of living is going up as their salaries (fixed in US dollars) are going down. They now prefer working for European companies because the strong euro yields them more of their currency. If the dollar keeps falling like that, at some point outsourcing will make no sense."