June 24, 2021
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Down Under Goes Down

Gone are the days when one could proudly introduce oneself as an IT professional in Australia. Now it is increasingly becoming a matter of confronting the embarrassing question: 'Are you still surviving?'

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Down Under Goes Down

Gone are the days when one could proudly introduce oneself as an IT professional in Australia. Now it is increasingly becoming a matter of confronting the embarrassing question: "Are you still surviving?"

Last week I met two men in Sydney, both IT professionals with postgraduate qualifications from India. Both of them had jobs. The first one, who is an expert in Java, is working in a grocery shop handing out packets of daal, rice, garam masala and volumes of Indian tele-serials to customers.

The other one, who is a SAP expert, is working as a kitchen-hand in an Italian restaurant. Nothing is wrong about these jobs but it is a fact that they were earning over Rs.25, 000 per month while they were working in India as IT professionals. Now, don’t rush to generalize and conclude that all our IT men are doing this. Only a noticeable number have been pushed into this position.

Over five years ago, the Australian government in an attempt to fill in IT positions had opened up its Business Class visas to qualified skilled migrants, particularly from India. We then had an influx into Australia mainly from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu while the rest were from different parts of India.

The Business Class visas were valid for four years only and our people came on an employment agents’ sponsored contract job. The charm of life overseas and the lure of money in dollars were seductive enough for anyone under 40 years of age to accept these offers. While those who had come here when the IT industry had just raised its glamorous face have done pretty well for themselves, it is these latter migrants who are looking at the industry’s ugly head.

The honeymoon was to end soon after all. While many found it hard to get their contracts renewed, the rest who were under the impression that their contracts would be made permanent were disappointed. Worse still, opportunities in the IT industry have fallen after their dramatic earlier rise.

Only a small number of people have managed the downturn and have secured employment to their satisfaction. The rest have hit the panic button. Some are hanging on to what they have on hand while those who are seeing their opportunities slipping away from them are desperate. They are doing whatever they can to survive by taking up any job that comes their way. There are many others who are left to handle the indignity of being jobless.

Recently, monster.com.au , the online job board of TMP Worldwide disappeared. The monster has gone up in a whiff of smoke leaving behind the IT job seekers to rub their eyes in shock. There are, however, five little genies (Jobnet, Seek, Fairfax’ My Career, the ITCRA jobs portal IT2 and News Corps’ Career One) vainly trying to pump themselves up.

Any IT person who is aspiring to migrate to Australia thinking the grass is greener Down Under should consider these factors before jumping on a plane. We have all heard of the fate of many of our IT professionals in recent times at the hands of immigration officials in the United States of America. With the IT revolution booming in India, we Indians would have to surely ask ourselves if we would be better of surviving in India than in America or Australia.

Let us pause for a moment to compare just one parameter in the IT industry between India, America and Australia. The Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in an attempt to establish reliable standards in software quality came up with an assessment method for certification called the CMM (Capability Maturity Model). The CMM as envisaged first in 1991, defined five levels of compliance that set increasingly onerous standards for determining software standards, the top being maturity level 5 (Recently CMM has been expanded to CMM-I or CMM Integration).

Higher levels of CMM compliance by greater number of organizations in a country is the proof of exemplary quantity and quality achievements by its software industry.

Figures available for October 2002 from the SIE, Carnegie Mellon University, indicate the following:

Country Maturity Level 4
Maturity Level 5
India 27 50
USA 39 20
Australia 2 0

The figures speak for themselves beautifully. As far as the IT industry is concerned, ‘East or West, home is the best‘ may well be rephrased today as ‘Australia or America, India is the best’. 

G. Sujatha is a Social Anthropologist from the University Of Madras. She now lives in Sydney, Australia.

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