See, I'm a little confused. Because for years, big companies like IBM have insisted there were so few talented IT workers in the U.S., they had to imp
February 3, 2009

See, I'm a little confused. Because for years, big companies like IBM have insisted there were so few talented IT workers in the U.S., they had to import them from India. And yet now we have so many, we can send them to India! Isn't that funny?

If I were a suspicious sort (and God knows, I'm not), I'd wonder if this isn't really a way to keep experienced American workers while artificially suppressing their wages. And of course, I'd also have to wonder: If you're offered one of these jobs and you decline, are you then ineligible to collect unemployment compensation? Because that already happens with big companies in the U.S.

Isn't this new personal responsibility thing fun? Who knew we'd get to see the world at company expense?

The climate is warm, there's no shortage of exotic food, and the cost of living is rock bottom. That's IBM (NYSE: IBM)'s pitch to the laid-off American workers it's offering to place in India. The catch: Wages in the country are pennies-on-the-dollar compared to U.S. salaries.

Under a program called Project Match, IBM will help workers laid off from domestic sites obtain travel and visa assistance for countries in which Big Blue has openings. Mostly that's developing markets like India, China, and Brazil.

"IBM has established Project Match to help you locate potential job opportunities in growth markets where your skills are in demand," IBM says in an internal notice on the initiative. "Should you accept a position in one of these countries, IBM offers financial assistance to offset moving costs, provides immigration support, such as visa assistance, and other support to help ease the transition of an international move."

The document states that the program is limited to "satisfactory performers who have been notified of separation from IBM U.S. or Canada and are willing to work on local terms and conditions." The latter indicates that workers will be paid according to prevailing norms in the countries to which they relocate. In many cases, that could be substantially less than what they earned in North America.

IBM has laid off more than 4,000 workers in the United States since the beginning of January, according to an employee group. The company has confirmed layoffs but won't comment on specific numbers.

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