Friday, March 24, 2017

H1B Visa Abuse: What Do Software Engineers Earn in India and Pakistan?

A segment of CBS 60 Minutes, top rated American newsmagazine on television, has recently brought sharp focus on H1B visa abuse. It alleges that the H1B visas are being misused by Indian body shops to bring low-cost Indian software engineers to the United States to replace higher-paid American workers.

H1B Visa Abuse:

The visa category was originally intended to help fill gaps in the high-tech workforce with highly skilled employees from abroad in situations where there aren’t enough Americans. Instead, it has given rise to body shops that bring in workers from overseas, mainly from India, to replace higher-paid American workers.

Recent examples of the firing of American IT workers and their replacement by Indian workers at UC San Francisco and Walt Disney and Co have received a lot of media attention. What has particularly incensed the American public is the practice of forcing the American workers to train their replacements.

Labor Cost Savings:

A loophole in H-1B legislation that US companies are taking advantage of allows them to outsource jobs to Indian body shops without even looking for Americans, if those jobs pay approximately $60,000 or higher. Similar jobs in Silicon Valley pay an average of $110,000 a year.

The average salary of a software engineer ($110,000) in Silicon Valley is about 20X more than the average salaries in India ($6,875) and Pakistan ($4,770), according to Glassdoor.

Source: Glassdoor


Indians Gaming H1-B System:

Indian body shops are masters of gaming the H1-B system.  Most of India's IT exports to the United States are made up of wages of H1B workers brought to the United States by a handful of Indian body shops like Cognizant, Tata Consulting Services (TCS) and Infosys.  In 2014, 86% of the H1B visas for tech workers were granted to Indians, according to available data.

Excluding the Indian H1B workers' pay,  India's IT exports drop to about one-twentieth of the the amount reported by the Indian government as IT exports, according to a 2005 study by US General Accounting Office (GAO).

The Indian body shops like Cognizant, TCS and Infosys that rely on the H1B visa program in the US are "the shining star" of the Indian economy, and the country's largest export, according to an Indian-American professor Ron Hira who is a strong critic of the abuses of H1B program. By complaining, the Indian government and firms that rely on the program are trying to "build up a firewall so that no other reforms can come through and constrain the program in any way."

Indian Code Coolies:

H1B workers brought in by Indian body shops are described variously as "code coolies" or "H1B slaves". Some call them "indentured servants", like the ones from India who replaced slave labor after the British empire abolished slavery.

“’Indentured servants’ is a pretty accurate term because in many cases that’s exactly what’s going on,” said Phillip Griego of San Jose’s Phillip J. Griego and Associates. Over the years, Griego and his law partner, Robert Nuddleman have represented several H-1B workers in lawsuits against body shops.

Trump's Pledge:

Along with cracking down on illegal immigration, a key campaign promise of President Trump has been to create lots of American jobs for American workers.  “You’ve heard me say the words, and I’ll repeat them, right now: Buy American and Hire American. It’s not just a motto, it’s a pledge. It’s a pledge to the working people of this country. The era of economic surrender for the United States is over -- it's over,” Trump said at Michigan earlier this week.

Right after the CBS 60 Minutes segment on H1-B visa, Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted: "If u just saw CBS 60minutes abt ripoff H1B visa program is replacing AmWorkers u shld know my/Durbin bill will correct this injustice."

There are reports that new legislation is being offered to change the H1-B program. Among the key provisions of this new proposed legislation are cutting the number of visa by 50% and doubling the minimum salary of H1B workers from $60,000 to $120,000.

Summary:

The abuse of H1B visas to replace American workers and depress wages is drawing both legislative and executive attention under the Trump administration. High profile cases like the firing of American workers at UC San Francisco and Disney and their replacement by Indian workers has energized the support for cracking down on abuse.


Pakistan's Software Prodigy

Biotech and Genomics in Pakistan

Monday, March 20, 2017

World Happiness Report 2017: Pakistan Tops South Asia

World Happiness Report 2017 ranks Pakistan (score 5.269) at 80, well ahead of the rest of South Asia.

The latest world happiness report released on March 20, 2017 ranks Bhutan (score 5.011) at 97, Nepal (4.962) at 99, Bangladesh (4.608) at 110, Sri Lanka (4.44) at 120, India (4.315) at 122 and Afghanistan (3.794) at 141 among 155 nations surveyed.



Norway (7.537) has the highest score that combines economic, health and polling data compiled by economists that are averaged over three years from 2014 to 2016. Denmark (7.522) ranks second followed by Iceland (7.504), Switzerland (7.494) and Finland (7.469) making the top 5.

Modi Gang Tells Critics to Go to Pakistan 

At the bottom are Sub-Saharan African nations of Tanzania (3.349) at 153, Burundi (2.905) at 154 and Central African Republic (2.693) at 155. War-torn Syria (3.462) is at 152.

World Happiness Report 2017 offers the following rationale for its annual happiness measurement exercise:

"The first World Happiness Report was published in April, 2012, in support of the UN High Level Meeting on happiness and well-being. Since then we have come a long way. Happiness is increasingly considered the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy. In June 2016, the OECD committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the centre of governments’ efforts”.1 In a recent speech, the head of the UN Development Program (UNDP) spoke against what she called the “tyranny of GDP”, arguing that what matters is the quality of growth.“ Paying more attention to happiness should be part of our efforts to achieve both human and sustainable development” she said."

The survey uses Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale, developed by pioneering social researcher Dr. Hadley Cantril, consisting of the following:

1. Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top.

2. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you.

3. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?

4. On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now?

In addition to the answers to Cantril questions, the survey considers the following six variables: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.

Here's another excerpt of the latest World Happiness Report:


Here's another excerpt of the World Happiness Report emphasizing social factors influencing happiness:

"A household’s income counts for life satisfaction, but only in a limited way. Other things matter more: community trust, mental and physical health, and the quality of governance and rule of law. Raising incomes can raise happiness, especially in poor societies, but fostering cooperation and community can do even more, especially in rich societies that have a low marginal utility of income. It is no accident that the happiest countries in the world tend to be high-income countries that also have a high degree of social equality, trust, and quality of governance. In recent years, Denmark has been topping the list. And it’s no accident that the U.S. has experienced no rise of life satisfaction for half a century, a period in which inequality has soared, social trust has declined, and the public has lost faith in its government."

Going by regions, European and North American nations are at the top of the list while sub-Saharan African nations are at the bottom. The rest of the world is in the middle.

In addition to median income and wealth, the prevalence of depression is among the key factors determining a country's happiness or the lack of it. The World Happiness Report 2015 noted that Pakistan has made significant efforts in treating rural women's depression. Here's an excerpt from the report:

"Community health workers (Lady Health Workers) were trained to identify and treat maternal depression, using a CBT-based ( intervention (the Thinking Healthy Program). The initiative used 16 home-based individual sessions and included active listening, collaboration with the family, guided discovery and homework (Cognitive Behavioral Therapists) is, trying things out between sessions, practicing what was learned). Forty local areas were assigned to either intervention or routine care, with about 450 mothers in each group. At follow-up sessions (after six months) the experimental group included 23% still depressed, compared with 53% in the control group. In another study, psychoeducation is being offered to all mothers."

Lancet paper describes the mental health intervention as follows:

"Lady Health Workers (LHWs) were trained to deliver a Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) based intervention to depressed women, beginning in the last trimester of pregnancy and ending at 10 months postpartum. The intervention is based in a psychosocial model and not presented as a ‘treatment’ for a ‘mental health problem’ but rather as way to improve positive and healthy thinking around the mother and the baby. The actual delivery of the intervention was integrated into the routine work of the existing community health worker – called Lady Health Worker (LHW) and delivered at the women’s’ home. LHWs are mainly responsible for maternal and child health care".

The Lady Health Workers (LHW) program in Pakistan has been described as “one of the best community-based health systems in the world” by Dr. Donald Thea, a Boston University researcher and one of the authors of a recent Lancet study on child pneumonia treatment in Pakistan. He talked with the New York Times about the study.

Pakistan's relatively lower levels of depression and suicides (less than 3 per 100,000) in South Asia are reflected in the region's suicide statistics. A 2013 scientific paper titled "Mental Depression of Indian Women" published in "Anthropology"  described the situation in India as follows: "Suicidal rate in India is higher comparing to other countries in the world. In each year over a half million people put their own lives down globally, of them 20% are Indians (17% of world population). However, during last two decades the rate of suicide has increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000".

India's youth suicide rate of 30-40 per 100,000 is among the highest in the world, according to a Lancet study. In addition, Indian farmers' suicides are continuing unabated at a rate of one every 30 minutes for the last two decades.

The problem of suicides appears to be at least in part due to the fact that India's value added agriculture continues be among the lowest in the world. Unlike India, Pakistan managed to significantly raise agriculture productivity and rural incomes in 1980s through a livestock revolution. Economic activity in dairy, meat and poultry sectors now accounts for just over 50% of the nation's total agricultural output. The result is that per capita value added to agriculture in Pakistan is almost twice as much as that in Bangladesh and India.

The key to improving happiness in developing countries like India and Pakistan is to focus on meeting basic needs such as education, nutrition and hygiene, in addition to addressing issues of health, including mental health.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

Trump Slump in Tourism; Corruption in South Asia; Imran Khan on PSL Final

How does President Trump's latest travel ban on citizens of 6 Muslim nations differ from his earlier executive order blocked by courts? Will the new order face similar block? What is the economic impact of Trump's travel ban on US travel and tourism industry? Will it lead to increased trade deficit and job losses?

What does the latest Transparency International's Asia survey say about the prevalence of bribery in India and Pakistan? Which countries are the best and the worst? Who are the biggest victims of such bribery? The rich or the poor?

Why is Imran Khan critical of the successful Pakistan Super League final in Lahore, Pakistan? Why did he denigrate foreign players who came to Pakistan to play the final? Does his language border on racism? What did PMLN's Javed Lateef say about PTI's Murad Saeed and his sisters that so enraged Murad Saeed and Imran Khan? Is such verbal and physical abuse justified for parliamentarians?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discusses these questions with panelists Ali H. Cemendtaur and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://youtu.be/xssAbcNKI5Q




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Trump Slump: Economic Impact of Muslim Travel Ban

Silicon Valley Protest Against Trump's Muslim Ban

Transparency International's Asia Bribery Survey

Pakistan Super League

Imran Khan in Silicon Valley

Talk4Pak Youtube Channel

Talk4Pak Vimeo Channel

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Proliferation of Cyber Warfare Capabilities in South Asia

Recent reports of Russian hacks of the American Democratic Party's election campaign staff to influence the outcome of US elections have brought international cyber espionage in sharp focus once again. How many nations have such capabilities? What are their names? Are India and Pakistan among them?

Pakistan is believed to be among a couple of dozen nations with serious cyber espionage capabilities. This belief has been strengthened among the cyber security community since Operation Arachnophobia is suspected to have originated in Pakistan.

Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage:

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius frequently writes about the activities of intelligence agencies and often cites "anonymous" intelligence sources to buttress his opinions. He is also a novelist who draws upon his knowledge to write spy thrillers.

Ignatius's 2011 fiction "Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage" features a computer science professor Dr. Omar who teaches at a Pakistani university as the main character. Omar, born in  Pakistan's tribal region of South Waziristan, is a cyber security expert. One of Omar's specialties is his deep knowledge of SWIFT, a network operated by Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication that tracks all international financial transactions, including credit card charges.

Omar's parents and his entire family are killed in a misdirected US drone strike. Soon after the tragedy,  several undercover CIA agents are killed within days after their arrival in Pakistan.  American and Pakistani investigations seek the professor's help to solve these murders. Ignatius's novel ends with the identification of the professor as the main culprit in the assassinations of CIA agents.

Operation Arachnophobia:

In 2014, researchers from FireEye, a Silicon Valley cyber security company founded by a Pakistani-American,  and ThreatConnect teamed up in their investigation of "Operation Arachnophobia" targeting Indian computers. It features a custom malware family dubbed Bitterbug that serves as the backdoor for stealing information. Though the researchers say they have not identified the specific victim organizations, they have spotted malware bundled with decoy documents related to Indian issues, according to DarkReading.com.

The reason it was dubbed "Operation Arachnophobia" has to do with the fact that variants of the Bitterburg malware detected by the researchers included build paths containing the strings “Tranchulas” and “umairaziz27”, where Tranchulas is the name of an Islamabad-based Pakistani security firm and Umair Aziz is one of its employees.

Operation Hangover:

Operation Arachnophobia targeted Indian officials. It appears to have been Pakistan's response to India's Operation Hangover that targeted Pakistan. Investigations by  Norway-based security firm Norman have shown that the Operation Hangover attack infrastructure primarily was used as a means to extract security-related information from Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, China.

"Targeted attacks are all too common these days, but this one is certainly noteworthy for its failure to employ advanced tools to conduct its campaigns," said Jean Ian-Boutin, malware researcher at ESET security company. "Publicly available tools to gather information on infected systems shows that the attackers did not go to great lengths to cover their tracks. On the other hand, maybe they see no need to implement stealthier techniques because the simple ways still work."

Attack Easier Than Defense:

The fact that cyber attacks so often succeed suggests that it's easier to attack a system than to defend it.  By the time such attacks are detected, it's already too late. A lot of valuable information has already been lost to attackers.

However, it's still very important to possess the cyberattack capability as a deterrent to attacks. Those who lack the capacity to retaliate invite even more brazen cyberattacks.

Need for International Treaties:

Cyberattacks on infrastructure can have disastrous consequences with significant loss of human life. Disabling power grids and communication networks can hurt a lot of people and prevent delivery of aid to victims of disaster. It's important that nations work together to agree on some norms for what is permissible and what is not before there is a catastrophe.

Summary:

About 30 nations, including US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China, India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan, possess cyber espionage and attack capabilities.  Growth and proliferation of such technologies present a serious threat to world peace.  There is an urgent need for nations of the world to come together to agree on reasonable restrictions to prevent disasters.

Haq's Musings

Revolution in Military Affairs: Cyberweapons and Robots

Cyber Warfare

Pakistani-American Founder of Fireeye Cyber Firm

Pakistan Boosts Surveillance to Fight Terror

Pakistan's Biometric Registration Database

Operation Zarb e Azb Launch

Ex Indian Spy Documents RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Intelligence Failures in Preventing Daily Carnage in Pakistan

What If Musharraf Had Said NO to US After 911?

Pakistani Computer Scientist Fights Terror

Pakistani Killer Drones to Support Anti-Terror Campaign

3G 4G Rollout Spurs Data Services Boom in Pakistan



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Transparency International Says India Most Corrupt in Asia

A Transparency International (TI) study of 16 Asian countries, including India and Pakistan, has found that India has the highest bribery rate.  69% of survey respondents in India said they have paid a bribe, given a gift or done a favor to receive government services like education and health care. Vietnam follows with 65%, Thailand 41% and Pakistan 40%. China reported a much lower 26%.

Corruption in Asia. Source: Transparency International 2017


The Transparency International study released in March 2017 is part of a regional series for the Global Corruption Barometer.  22,000 people participated in the survey to answer questions about their recent experiences with corruption in 16 countries and territories in the Asia Pacific region.

The study found that Japan has the lowest incidence of bribery at 0.2 per cent. South Korea and Australia recorded 3% each, Hong Kong 2% and Taiwan 6%. While 46% to 60% of Indians say they paid bribes for various public services, including in public schools and hospitals and for getting IDs, voter cards and permits and accessing utilities and the police, 31% to 45% said they paid bribes for court services as well.

Unlike the rest of Asia, the poorest people are the biggest victims of corruption in India (73%), Pakistan (64%) and Thailand (46%).

Poor vs Rich Victims of Corruption in Asia. Source: TI

Pakistan fares worse than India in terms of bribes paid to police and courts but better in access to schools and health facilities.

The TI report said that "police top the list of public services most often demanding a bribe. Just under a third of people who had come into contact with a police officer in the last 12 months said they paid a bribe. Overall, 38 per cent of the poorest people surveyed said they paid a bribe, which is the highest proportion of any income group".

Although this report suggests Pakistan is doing better than its neighbor India, the corruption levels in Pakistan remain very high relative to more developed Asian economies. The worst part of it is that the poorest people who can least afford to pay bribes are the biggest victims of such corrupt practices. Fighting corruption requires a broad-based effort. The mass media need to play a role in exposing it; the lawyers and the judges need to do their part to address it. And the civil society at large needs to speak up whenever and wherever they see it.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Panama Leaks, Musharraf and Sharifs

Pakistani Leaders in London After Panama Leaks

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption Probe

President Pervez Musharraf's Legacy

We Hang Petty Thieves and Appoint Great Ones to High Offices