Germans debate `green cards' for Indian IT experts

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Sat Mar 18 05:43:54 PST 2000

Friday 17 March 2000

Germans debate `green cards' for Indian IT experts By Manik Mehta BERLIN: Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's announcement that his government will issue `green cards' to information technology (IT) experts from India and other countries has triggered a debate with racial undertones among German politicians. The government plans to issue initially some 10,000 `green cards', which may be increased to 20,000 if the labour market warrants it. Although German politicians have been calling labour permits `green cards', these bear no similarity to the U.S. permanent residence permits of the same name. The German `green cards' will be valid for a maximum of three years and, in exceptional cases, can be extended by two years depending on the job situation. The move has fuelled antagonism in the German public and trade unions. Germany has high unemployment -- about 10 per cent -- and many politicians find it convenient to engage in foreigner-bashing to divert attention from the high rate of joblessness and other economic woes that plague Germany. Some 56 per cent of Germans questioned recently said they are against the recruitment of foreign IT specialists, including Indians. While the German Employers' Association has welcomed the government's initiative to issue "green cards" as a stop-gap solution to meet the shortage of IT experts in the country until sufficient trained Germans are available, the opposition group of conservative parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have been quick to lash out at the government. The move was not well deliberated, deputy parliamentary spokesman of the CDU/CSU, Maria Boehmer, says. "The question is what do you do with them (foreign IT experts) after three or five years?" she asks. The government is being criticised for relying on Indian IT experts rather than giving young Germans the necessary support to acquire proper education and training. The CDU's leading candidate in the ongoing election campaign in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, Juergen Ruettgers, has launched a tirade against Indians. Aiming to put the ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP) on the defensive, Ruettgers says the government does "more for Indians than for our children". With his slogan 'Kinder statt Inder' (Our children instead of Indians), Ruettgers has been stirring up irrational fears and anger against Indians. Some of Ruettgers' own party colleagues have urged him to look at the "ground realities" of the German labour market. While it is true that there is high unemployment in the country, there are not enough qualified IT experts available in Germany. Indian experts, availing short-term H-1B visas, have been recruited by American companies to work in the U.S. and to create new growth opportunities. Because of Germany's restrictive visa policy towards Indians, the country's companies have suffered as they have not been able to recruit IT experts from India. Lothar Spaeth, a former Minister President (equivalent to the rank of chief minister) of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and now chairman of the East German technology group Jena Optik, described Ruettgers' anti-Indian campaign as the "biggest buffoonery" which "only politicians are capable of committing." However, many Germans and foreigners are asking whether a short-term visa will be attractive enough to lure Indian and other experts to work in this country. "A restricted visa will mean that an Indian expert will start looking for greener pastures elsewhere from the day of his arrival in Germany," says K. Rangarajan, an American citizen of Indian origin who works at a software company as an IT consultant on a "loan basis". (India Abroad News Service) For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
For comments and feedback send Email © Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. 2000.

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list