Austria also mulls jumping onto IT hiring bandwagon
By R. Senthilnathan, India Abroad News
Vienna, April 11 -- Following in Germany's footsteps, Austrian officials
have begun to consider bringing in thousands of foreign information technology
(IT) experts, prompting protests from the vocal far-right in the country.
Brigitte Ederer, the Social Democratic financial counselor of the Vienna
city council, has called for import of IT specialists from non-European
Union (E.U.) countries to offset lack of computer experts in Austria. India,
again, is seen as a major source country.
Hilmar Kabas, head of the Viennese wing of the far-right Austrian Freedom
Party, known by its acronym FPOe, said he "totally rejects" the
proposed "mass import" of what he called cheap labor from Mumbai
"Instead of flying in specialists from Calcutta or Bombay (Mumbai),
the city government should launch a massive higher education program to
meet the demands of the IT sector growth," said Kabas, whose party,
led by Joerg Haider, is anti-foreigner and for that reason is being shunned
by many Western governments.
The FPOe is the minor partner in the government of Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel
of the conservative Austrian People's Party. Adding a twist, Kabas said
developing countries should not be robbed of their future through the "sucking
out" of their IT specialists.
Brigitte Ederer's call for hiring of foreign professionals has been supported
by officials of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Economy and the Industrialists'
Recent studies by Austrian and international institutions reveal that the
country is lagging behind in the technological field. A study by two international
media research institutes, Britain-based Datamonitor and U.S.-based International
Data Corporation (IDC), said Austria needs up to 55,000 network and other
IT specialists now and by year 2003 the demand will increase to 85,000.
Though many agree that Austria needs to do something to address its lack
of IT experts to be competitive in the technology-driven new economic order,
there are differences over how the problem should be handled.
While Ederer stopped short of naming any countries from where the specialists
could be hired, leaving the door open for specialists from India, Lorenz
Fritz, head of the Industrialists' Union, said the experts should be hired
from East European countries instead of China or India.
The Federal Chamber of Economy supports this view. "In the short-term,
it will be necessary to relax visa and immigration regulations for IT experts
from Austria's eastern neighbors," said Rudolf Lichtmanegger, a senior
official at the chamber.
Though the discussion forums of leading newspapers and the Austrian Broadcasting
Corporation are running hot on the issue with many opposing the move to
import IT specialists, emotions are not running as high as in Germany. Some
leaders of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Germany's main opposition
party, have been conducting a near-racist campaign against a government
plan to issue work permits to 20,000 foreign IT specialists.
Germany puts out 35,000 IT specialists every year from its universities
and other higher education institutions, but studies claim the country has
to have up to 100,000 specialists every year to fulfill the dream of becoming
the leading technological power in Europe.
Copyright © 2000 India Abroad Publications, Inc.