NEWS-INDIA: Life's not all rosy in Silicon Valley

  • To: gii <india-gii at cpsr dot org>
  • Subject: NEWS-INDIA: Life's not all rosy in Silicon Valley
  • From: Frederick Noronha <fred at bytesforall dot org>
  • Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2000 00:35:37 +0530
  • Organization: Freelance Journalist
  • Reply-to: fred@bytesforall.org
  • Sender: owner-s-asia-it@lists.apnic.net
    • Life's not all rosy in Silicon Valley
      by Sukhjit Purewal, India Abroad News Service
      
      San Jose, Dec 8 - Silicon Valley may be the promised land for Indian and
      other entrepreneurs and technical professionals, but life is not exactly a
      bed of roses for these immigrants.
      
      There are some not so pleasant aspects of living and working in the valley
      in Santa Clara, the most diverse county in northern California, according to
      a report released by the county Office of the Human Relations Citizenship
      and Immigrant Services Program.
      
      The report, titled "Bridging Borders in Silicon Valley," was released during
      the Summit on Immigrant Needs and Contributions here. The report was
      compiled after surveying the county's top five immigrant groups -- Indians,
      Chinese, Mexicans, Filipinos and Vietnamese.
      
      A total of 272 Indian immigrants, including H1-B visa holders, responded to
      the random sample survey, which contained 113 questions on a number of
      topics including working conditions, mental health, education and healthcare
      access.
      
      The study found that tech-dominated Silicon Valley could be a difficult
      place for Indian immigrants.
      
      "The hi-tech world is dedicated as prosperous and progressive. But what I
      have seen is rampant discrimination and exploitation. The employers use the
      laws to their convenience and immigrant workers are denied their rights,"
      Kim Singh, part of the Asian Pacific Public Policy Institute at Stanford
      University, was quoted in the report as testifying during a labor
      organization hearing on immigrant rights in April.
      
      Temporary workers are particularly susceptible, according to the report.
      "Forty percent of jobs in Silicon Valley are contingent labor, which
      includes temporary, part time and contracted workers," said Bharat Desai, an
      immigrant who worked in one of the survey's focus groups. "The majority is
      from the immigrant population," he said.
      
      But even as more temporary jobs are created, Desai said, the low wage
      earners in the group are unable to meet present inflammatory trends of
      prices in the valley.
      
      H1-B visa holders have their own woes despite the recent victories of
      raising the number of allowable visas and extending the stay period. As one
      unidentified Indian H1-B visa holder who participated in the study said,
      living on one wage is getting to be more and more difficult in the very
      expensive Santa Clara County.
      
      "As our spouses are issued H4 visas, they could not take up a job, even
      though they are well qualified. We find it very difficult to meet increased
      expenses on account of high rent or the high cost of living," the Indian was
      quoted as saying.
      
      The report recommends that spouses of H1-B visa holders should be allowed to
      work, especially since many of them have expertise in mathematics and
      science and could be used to bolster the dwindling supply of qualified
      teachers in California.
      
      The study also reported that while client companies such as HP or Sun
      Microsystems may pay as much as $75 to $175 per hour, H1-B visa holders may
      receive only $25 to $30 of that money. The temporary agencies, or what some
      call "hi-tech body shops" that contract out the employees, end up making
      most of the money. The study recommended that the temporary agencies be
      better regulated or eliminated altogether.
      
      And although Indians tend to be the wealthiest ethnic group in America with
      nearly one in four earning $75,000 or more, glass ceilings still remain a
      problem, especially for women. While Indian men in Silicon Valley earn on
      average $33.49 per hour, Indian women earn $23.77, according to the summit
      report.
      
      One unidentified Indian American woman was quoted in the study as saying, "I
      found it easy to get an entry-level position, but promotion to the next
      level has been difficult -- a male always get better treatment in the job
      market."
      
      At the summit, Jessie Singh, founder of BJS electronics, shared his story of
      immigrant triumph with the audience. BJS clocked sales of $250 million last
      year.
      
      Jessie Singh talked about how when he first came to the U.S. in 1986, he
      tried his hand at everything from pizza delivery to working at a gas
      station, being unable to translate his engineering degree into a meaningful
      career. But he said he found the American system to be friendly and the
      director at an employment office directed him to a computer course, which
      opened the door to his successful career.
      
      Jessie Singh said people like him now have to help others who follow. "When
      we are making a good living we have to give back -- to help the incoming
      immigrants make a smooth transition," he said.
      
      Jessie Singh is emblematic of the contributions Asians have made to the
      Silicon Valley economy. It is estimated that between 1995 and 1998, 29
      percent of Silicon Valley's companies were run by either Indians or Chinese
      and over 700 start-ups are run by Indians.