Alibaba Group of China and SoftBank of Japan have similarly made vows to hire large numbers of Americans.

PAUL MOZUR
MAY 2, 2017

Infosys, an India-based outsourcing company, helps big employers cut jobs and save money. In the era of President Trump, that could make Infosys a political target.

On Tuesday, Infosys moved to show that it can hire Americans, too.

The company said it would hire 10,000 workers in the United States in the next two years, making it the latest Asian technology company to portray itself as a jobs creator as Mr. Trump threatens to take action against companies he sees as hurting American workers. Infosys also said it would open a technology and innovation office in August in Indiana, the home state of Vice President Mike Pence. It would be the first of four such sites in the United States, the company said.

Infosys was light on details in discussing its plan. For example, it said it would hire 2,000 people at the Indiana location by 2021 but did not explain how that squared with its two-year plan to hire 10,000 workers.

Still, the announcement puts Infosys in notable company. Others, like Alibaba Group of China and SoftBank of Japan, have similarly made vows to hire large numbers of Americans. In the case of Alibaba, it has said its businesses will help create one million jobs. The promises are so large, in fact, that many experts doubt all the jobs will materialize.

The Infosys announcement comes just weeks after Mr. Trump signed an executive order that directed government agencies to review employment immigration laws to promote “Hire American” policies. The order also instructed the agencies to offer suggestions for how to reform the H-1B visa program, which operates as a lottery to bring skilled labor to the United States, usually technology workers.

The chief executive of Infosys, Vishal Sikka, said the new plans have been part of ongoing efforts by the company, which already has an innovation hub in Silicon Valley. The company said it chose Indiana for its “respected and highly skilled work force.”

“Since joining Infosys nearly three years ago, it has been my personal endeavor to help us get much closer to our clients, to co-innovate with them, on their most important business problems,” he said in a news release.

Mr. Trump’s nationalistic approach to business puts international companies in a difficult position. But for many Asian companies, it is a position they are familiar with.

For many of these companies, Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is reminiscent of the politics of business in their home countries. In recent years, India has introduced a so-called Make in India industrial policy to push companies to build out manufacturing plants in the country. Both Japan and China often exhibit the kind of economic nationalism that the Trump administration has championed.

In the cases of Alibaba and SoftBank, the pledges won an endorsement from Mr. Trump. It is not clear whether such moves will ultimately help win political advantages from a president who has been skeptical about the benefits of trade agreements.

As one of the largest beneficiaries of the H-1B program, Infosys could be hit hardest by changes to the system. In 2014, the company received the third most visas of any company in the program. Major American technology companies like Facebook and Qualcomm also use the program to hire foreign talent, arguing that they cannot find enough skilled workers in the United States. Still, outsourcing companies like Infosys have caused the most controversy.

One suggestion — that H-1B visas be given to companies paying the highest wages — could hit Infosys, which usually does not offer wages as high as the likes of Facebook. To that end, a new operation in America could help offset those difficulties. Indian outsourcing companies have also discussed doing more of the back-end technology work they help with in India or other countries.

As a technology consulting and outsourcing company, Infosys helps large companies — in industries including health care, banking, energy and media — offload the costs, and oftentimes the staff, required to support complicated, back-end computing systems. Infosys argues that it saves major American companies big costs and allows them to operate more efficiently.

Critics say that companies like Infosys have taken advantage of the H-1B program, designed to complement the American skilled labor force, by bringing in workers who ultimately undercut it by taking lower wages. While the program is relatively small, accounting for about 85,000 visas per year, it has become a lightning rod in the debate about large companies outsourcing American jobs.

Infosys said it would disclose the locations of three more innovation and research centers soon.

As part of the statement announcing the new plan, Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, said Infosys would contribute to the state’s “growing tech ecosystem.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/02/b...n-workers.html