In a symbolic shift, IBM’s India workforce likely exceeds U.S.

Thursday, November 29th 2012. | Software News

There is a difference in the way U.S. and Indian IT firms report their headcounts, and it tells a lot about globalization.

Indian firms diligently report hiring quarter-to-quarter. It’s a key metric and a source of pride. Among those providing detailed data is India IT services firm Tata Consultancy Services. It employs about quarter of a million people, with about 90% of their workforce counted as Indian.

In the U.S. it’s different story. The big IT firms, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Oracle and most others, with the exception of Microsoft, only provide global headcounts, and not country breakouts.

When HP, for instance, announced global layoffs earlier this year, it did not detail how many U.S. workers were getting cut.

For years, IBM was an exception to this industry practice. It reported its U.S. employment until 2010, when it released its annual report without a U.S. headcount breakout.

The last time that IBM made a public statement about its U.S. workforce was in congressional testimony in the fall of 2009, when it put its U.S. workforce at 105,000. It was at 121,000 at the end of 2007, and more in previous years.

At the time that IBM stopped reporting its U.S. headcount, it was beginning to appear that India was on trajectory to surpass its U.S. workforce. Crossing such a threshold is a symbolic shift more than anything else — a globalization footnote. With a global workforce of 430,000, less than a fourth of IBM’s employees are in the U.S.

According to an internal document obtained by Computerworld, IBM has 112,000 workers in India, up from 6,000 in 2002. IBM won’t comment on this document or authenticate it, so this information has an asterisk next to it.

But there’s also little that is surprising about this data. It has been widely expected over the past year or two that IBM’s India workforce was on track to exceed its U.S. workforce, if it hadn’t exceeded it already.

In early 2010, for instance, The Times of India reported, without naming sources, that IBM had more than 100,000 workers in India.

The only source today of IBM U.S. employment data is from the Alliance@IBM/CWA Local 1701, which puts the U.S. headcount today at about 92,000.

The average pay for all IBM workers in India was at $ 17,000, according to the document. That may seem shockingly low to U.S. IT workers, but it is in alignment with IT wages in India.

The Everest Group said the annual wages generally in India for a software engineer range from $ 8,000 to $ 10,000; for a senior software engineer, $ 12,000 to $ 15,000, and between $ 18,000 and $ 20,000 for a team lead. A project manager may make as much as $ 31,000.

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