Friday, July 26, 2013

PBS On "The Bogus High-Tech Worker Shortage"

I was actually rather surprised to see PBS taking the side of Americans:
Currently, U.S. colleges graduate far more scientists and engineers than find employment in those fields every year -- about 200,000 more -- while the IT industry fills about two-thirds of its entry-level positions with guest workers.

At the same time, IT wages have stagnated for over a decade. We cannot expect to build a strong STEM workforce and encourage domestic innovation by developing policies that undermine the quality of STEM jobs. Before asking government to intervene in labor markets by handing out more guest worker visas and green cards to STEM graduates, we should ask for audits of shortage claims and workforce impacts as a first step toward developing evidence-based policy on this issue, an issue critical to the nation's future.

Asking domestic graduates, both native-born and immigrant, to compete with guest workers on wages is not a winning strategy for strengthening U.S. science, technology and innovation.
The article points out that many of the H-1B visas are for people who are not doing cutting edge work:
There may be highly innovative guest workers, but most are in jobs far away from the innovation frontier. The Economic Policy Institute's Ron Hira found that few of the largest H-1B employers could be considered technology innovators, with most generating very low levels of patents.
Theoretically, H-1B visas are supposed to be for workers with specialized job skills that could not be hired from the pool of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.  I've seen quite few examples of employers advertising for H-1Bs with very generic job skills: five years of object-oriented programming, and I have worked with a few who were grossly incompetent.


  1. I figure any company that gets a random H1B guy from China or India gets what they deserve: probably someone incompetent.

    By no means is everyone in China or India incompetent (I personally know a few Indians - in India - who are good programmers); but without extensive filtering effort you're getting pure luck of the draw, and China and India are both just as good at generating incompetents as the US is.

    Even worse, in a way, because one can, I'm told, get an "engineering" degree there that wouldn't pass as an Associate's in the States, and has no relation to actual ability to write a line of useful code.

  2. As much as there is to disparage about the "Palestinian Broadcasting System", I have to admit that once in awhile its report on something comports with impartial reality, i.e. the truth.
    I have read about this problem before, with regard to such H-1B visa holders being paid very little and continually under threat of deportation, which is not what we expect from Americans.