Dec 2, 2008

Business - Job fears make NRIs stay at work

Shramana Ganguly Mehta & Madhvi Sally

AHMEDABAD/CHANDIGARH: Ready with their backpacks, they wait for the Christmas break impatiently to head home for reunion with their families in Job Switch: How to make smooth transition
India. This year however, global slowdown is forcing several NRIs to stay put in their respective countries of employment fearing jobloss behind their backs.

With employers following “out of sight, out of mind” policy, more aggressively than even before in wake of the ongoing economic crisis, fear-psychosis has gripped almost all employees—locals and migrants—alike , observes Ma Foi Management Consultants CEO E Balaji. “Since the last several years, it has been a practice among NRIs to visit India during Christmas break. But not this year.

No matter what the employment contract says, it is easier to fire white-collared employees in these times. At a time when even locals are turning up at their workplaces well before time and deliberately staying put till late hours just to ensure their visibility to their employers, do NRIs stand a chance to hold on to their jobs if they take breaks? The fear of losing job at these times is well-founded ,” he points out. “One must remain visible at these times to assert their association with an organisation,” Balaji reasons.

IT professional Ramesh Krishnan (name changed) for instance, has been given an ultimatum by his company in the US. Scheduled to get married later this month, the 28-year-old was to head for India in the first week of December . But now, he has been asked to make a choice - remain a bachelor for now, or get fired! Even as Krishnan’s fate hangs in balance, his counterparts have decided to not do anything to trigger such action from their companies.

Lalit Patel (34), a healthcare professional with H1 visa in US, shares with ET the plight of many NRIs in the region. “While NRIs holding green card are avoiding unnecessary travels due to expenses, those on temporary visas, are worst affected. They have limited job options and are finding it difficult to meet expenses. With vary rare openings in IT sector, people can’t risk their jobs by going on vacations. I believe 80% of NRIs avoiding vacation this time.”

Rohini Machral, who owns a take-away pizza joint in Florida, for instance, would not have lost out on business had she taken a break to be with her family in Chandigarh during these vacations . However, she has opted out from the break. “At a time when people are cutting corners to stay afloat, and sales are all time low, she fears her business will be at loss if she closes down even temporarily,” says friend Chandigarh-based Ritu Kochhar, director, NIFD.

Importantly, as worried family members throng HR consultants, they are being advised not to prod their people to take vacations . Says MD of Job Switch: How to make smooth transition
Chandigarh-based Oceanic Consultant Naresh Gulati, “Parents whose children are working overseas in IT and banking sectors, are coming in flocks, to seek advice on their behalf. We are recommending parents not to hint about a vacation at this point of time and instead, make trips themselves . It is not a good idea for anyone out there to move, least for a holiday.”

Melbourne-based IT professional from Jalandhar Ranpreet Singh (30), is one among hundreds of those who will hold on to their chairs during the forthcoming holidays. His mother Gurinder Arora tells ET that he has shelved his plan to visit the family. “He works in the IT division of a leading telecom firm in Melbourne and is scared of the consequences of leaving the country at this point of time,” she says.

She adds that her nephew Amandeep Singh (29), employed in a management firm in London is in fact, so unsure about the job situation that he has already come back to India . “While high expenses in these times of recession pushed him out from his current accommodation in London to its outskirts, he now wants to settle in India and do business here,” she adds.

Cases are aplenty - 31-year-old Neena Roy, pursuing her post-doctoral in Ohio, has cancelled her plan to visit Kolkata. “With doubts being raised about research grants, she does not want to take chances with her career and hence, would not come to India,” her sister Mamta Goswami says.

Kochhar adds her sister Tina and husband, both investment banks in Toronto, have never missed being together in India during the latter’s Christmas break in the last four years. “This time however, they will not come considering the job scenario in the West is not that great,” Kochhar says.

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