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Relax immigration norms, US urged

US should relax laws for inflow of skilled labour from India, says Assocham.

delhi Updated: Apr 15, 2007 11:11 IST

With the US facing an acute shortage of skilled labour, the White House should relax immigration norms to facilitate inflow of skilled labour from countries like India, industry body Assocham said on Sunday.

The chamber asked the US to facilitate changes in the WTO agreements as to allowing free movement of natural persons (mode 4) under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

"While the Mode 4 is not encouraged on fears of employment and immigration, rich countries like the US would soon need to amend their domestic laws allowing entry to quality labour from overseas to meet its economic needs," Assocham President Venugopal Dhoot said.

With the ageing population, the industrialised nations have started realising the need for flexible laws as it is affecting the cost competitiveness of these nations.

"Immigration is one of our greatest opportunities not a threat, if we approach (the issue) with judgement and wisdom," US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said recently.

The Doha mandate aims for liberalisation of international trade in services but movement of human capital has been missing from the WTO agreements, Assocham said.

India is one of the largest providers of skilled labour to the US economy, according to an Assocham study on Migration between India and the US.

The study revealed that of the 2,000 Indian emigrants to the US, 95 per cent possess a bachelors or masters degree as compared to 55.5 per cent of the Chinese emigrants, 5 per cent from Mexico and 48.5 per cent from Philippines.

It said the proportion of people in prime working years (25-54 years) is expected to increase by a mere 0.3 per cent in the next seven years. By 2010 one-fifth of the US population would consist of senior citizens.

On the other hand, India has a young demographic profile as 62 per cent of the total 1.1 billion population falls in the working age group of 15-64 years. As per the projections, this group would constitute 65-68 per cent of the country's population between year 2011 to 2026.

Assocham said the cap on visas coupled with procedural and legal hurdles have hampered the free flow of human capital and harmed both the US as well as Indian economies.

For six of the last eight years, the number of H-1B visas issued each year has fallen short of US employers' demand, it added.

First Published: Apr 15, 2007 10:40 IST