The US H1-B visa program, which will begin accepting applications for 2013 next week, is a hot-button issue in high-tech. Proponents of the program, which allows highly skilled foreign employees to work in the US, complements the US workforce. Opponents say the program has been exploited to bring in workers that are paid less than their US counterparts and displaces qualified American workers.
Last March, Associate Professor Ronil Hira of the Rochester Institute of Technology, testified before the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. These are excerpts from his testimony:
I have concluded that the H-1B program, as currently designed and administered, does more harm than good. To meet the needs of the U.S. economy and U.S. workers, the H-1B visa program needs immediate and substantial overhaul.
The principal goal of the H-1B visa program is to bring in foreign workers who complement the US workforce. Instead, loopholes in the program have made it too easy to bring in cheaper foreign workers, with ordinary skills, who directly substitute for, rather than complement, workers already in America. They are clearly displacing and denying opportunities to US workers.
Furthermore, program loopholes provide an unfair competitive advantage to companies specializing in offshore outsourcing, speeding up the process of shipping high-wage, high-tech jobs overseas. It has disadvantaged companies that primarily hire American workers and forced those firms to accelerate their own offshoring, threatening America’s capacity to innovate and ability to create sufficient high-wage, high-technology jobs.
Hira outlined four design flaws with the program, which I have summarized below:
No labor market test. Employers are not required to show that American workers are unavailable before hiring foreign workers through the H1-B visa program.
Wage requirements are too low. A recent GAO study found that the majority of H1-B applications were reserved for entry-level positions -- "hardly a wage level that the 'best and brightest' would earn."
Work permits are held by the employer. An H1-B worker's legal status in the country is dependent on the employer, rather than the worker, giving inordinate power to the employer.
The visa period is too long. H1-B visas are issued for three years and are renewable for another three years. The visas can be extended indefinitely.
Hira also testified that other visa programs, such as L-1, B-1, and OPT, are also badly in need of an overhaul. Actions recommended include requiring a regular test of the US labor market; paying guest workers true market wages; limiting the visas to three years with no renewal; eliminating access to additional H1-B visas for H1-B dependent firms; and instituting sensible oversight, including regular audits, of guest worker visa programs.
"The lobbyists supporting the H1-B visa program have repeatedly made claims that the program is needed because there is a shortage of American workers with the requisite skills and that the foreign workers being imported are the best and the brightest," Hira concluded. "If that is indeed the case, then those employers should not object to these sensible reforms."
What "talent"? Talent that has produced the biggest recession in 70 years? USA doesn't need that kind of talent. America was booming when Americans were running IT. Americans invented IT. America has all the talent it needs right here at home. A country that does not employ its own citizens isn't even a country.
Giving H-1Bs or green cards to anyone with an advanced US degree will not solve the problem because they will still send their pay home instead of spending it in the US. The point is Americans spend their $ here, foreign workers send it home with the view of returning home as soon as they have made enough. Do not delude yourself into thinking these people want to become Americans and stay here. America needs a healthy base of US consumers in order for the economy to function properly.
"How much do you think the real Unemployment Numbers for IT professionals in America is today?"
I can't say for sure beyond my own impressions. However, if you presume that 5% is the rate where frictional unemployment predominates in an industry, and that anything above that reflects structural pain, then my oberservations of the general pain and the permanent changes that colleagues are experiencing in IT tell me that we are probably somewhere above 5% in IT unemployment. My gut tells me that the unemployment rate for US IT employees (non H1-B) is probably higher than the current average you mentioned, and older US employees are at the very highest in terms of unemployment and wasted potential.
It would be very easy to find a reasonable approximation of the true figure via a survey, but the organization doing the survey must be free of conflicts of interest. That means no political agenda, no advertising conflicts, and no sponsorship conflicts (as seen in the case of corporate "sponsoring memberships" in the big technological, so-called professional societies). We likely won't see that.
I think as written, the H1-B program is a good one. Oversignt would help weed out a lot of the abuses. I don't think we can blame the H1-B program for problems with immigration and legal/illegal workers. Again, as written, H1-B is not a ticket to a green card and is not intended to be. Rather than shut down a program that should bring talent into the US, an overhaul/oversight would be the better option.
"Unemployment amongst Americans has increased this Recession started in 2008.Albleit amongst the IT Crowd its still quite low(4%)."
I doubt the accuracy of the official unemployment figures, especially as, according to the US government, inflation is very low in the US. My observations tell me a different story, in both departments.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
While no one really can accurately predict the future, we can take guidance from another Drucker saying which is the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.