Those of you following the reader comments to some of my posts may have noticed some that mention that whenever they go in for a job interview, the staff is all or mostly Indians, giving those readers the impression that only Indians need apply. Some of you might worry that such readers have something against the Indians, but I find that this is not generally the case; they just want a job, that’s all, and are understandably upset if they believe their own ethnicity is a barrier. My post here will discuss the changing demographics in Silicon Valley, and various implications.
I’ve written before that, once “ethnic enclaves” form within a company–or in some cases, the entire company becomes such–it can be very frustrating for job applicants who are outside that ethnicity. The perception, often correct, is that outsiders have little or no chance to get the job.
The “outsiders” need not be Caucasian. Some years ago the San Jose Mercury News ran an article on the dominance of the Indian workers, and quoted some Chinese engineers as having heard a rumor that the U.S. government is actually giving preference to the Indians for visas. Not true, of course, but it does show how the outsiders feel.
It certainly has been interesting to watch this demographic change. In the 1980s, the dominant ethnicity among immigrant engineers in the Silicon Valley was Chinese, mostly people from Taiwan. Cities such as Fremont became heavily ethnic Chinese. But after the H-1B visa was implemented in 1991 (before that, there was a visa named H-1), things changed rapidly, with the Indians supplanting the Chinese.
There are still many Chinese in Fremont, for example, but the city government announced about a year ago that the Indian population had surged ahead of the Chinese, at least among schoolkids. The immigrant population of the city is still decidedly mixed — one of my favorite Chinese restaurants, at Paseo Padre and Fremont Blvd., keeps Halal in its cooking, and has many Middle Eastern customers in addition to Chinese — but it’s clear that the Indians are on the upswing.
Here is some data on employer-sponsored green card applications (nationwide), showing the percentage of workers from China and India:
|year||Chinese %||Indian %|
I ought to update this, and do some Bay Area-specific analyses, but in any case, the trend is dramatic. Note, by the way, that these are green card applications (from the PERM data), so they basically exclude the Indian bodyshops. These workers are being hired by mainstream employers.
So, in the minds of many tech workers, H-1B has become synonymous with Indian. Hopefully this puts some of the reader comments in perspective.
Correction: In my earlier post today, I stated that my MS program link was to SJSU; it was actually to SFSU.