Saturday, April 05, 2008

Losing The Race for Skilled Workers: Scrap the Cap

America's political leaders are so fixated on illegal immigration they've barely noticed that the U.S. is losing the race for the best high-tech minds. This country won't keep its edge in the global economy until legislators stop behaving like border sentries and start acting like international recruiters – a switch virtually every industrialized country is making.

A good way to begin is for Congress to pass pending legislation to scrap the cap on skilled worker (H1-B) visas. This cap is currently so low (65,000) that in April last year it got used up within a day of these visas becoming available, leaving thousands of left over engineers to be scooped up by America's competitors. Immigration authorities started accepting 2009 applications last Tuesday – and expect a similar flood.

~Shikha Dalmia in today's Wall Street Journal


At 4/05/2008 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While skilled and educated workers would be of great benefit to the U.S. economy, perhaps, there is a reason politicians prefer the status quo.

An influx of well educated citizens might just start to question earmarks, out of control spending, and multiciplity of idiotic policies that seem to come forth out of Washington on a consistent basis. How many well educated people are satisfied with the scripted, sound bytes which rarely if ever address complex issues?

Perhaps, presidential candidates would have to actually offer more than slogans like "families first", "audacity of hope" or "it takes a village". Wouldn't a highly educated society demand more than the mediocrity that is delivered by the average highly paid Washington politician.

Don't expect H1B's to be increased any time soon.

At 4/05/2008 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And those who would be qualified to become skilled workers are leaving engineering and going into law and business.  Now why is this?

As someone whose wages have stagnated even while inflation surges, I'm keen to understand the situation.  One element of that situation is the H1B visa system, which allows employers to hire third-world "engineers" (some of them aren't so good) at less than what I can afford to take a job for.  I was edged out for a position in Illinois just last year this way.  There is a widespread phenomenon of engineers becoming unemployable in their field after about age 40.

Consider the effects of this on someone picking a course of study.  Who's going to want to graduate with a pile of student loans to pay back, but with their pay capped by H1B competition and a brick wall in their career path less than 20 years away?

If you want more skilled workers instead of skilled deal-makers, you're going to have to reward them.  The H1B program goes exactly opposite to that.

At 4/05/2008 12:23 PM, Blogger randian said...

One of the other problems with H1-B is that visa holders are often forced to leave the country before they can apply for permanent residency and come back here. Usually, that means they stay in their home country and use their talents to make it rich, rather than staying here and using their talents to make us rich.

At 4/05/2008 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup. What engineer-poet said.

The other factor in hiring H1-B is that they can work only for the company that brought them here. If they want to change jobs they need that company's permission. Fat chance. The old term for this practice is indentured servant.

At 4/05/2008 12:52 PM, Blogger KauaiMark said...

"...phenomenon of engineers becoming unemployable in their field after about age 40."

For me it started at 40 before I was finally replaced permemantly at 50. It's not the talent that's the problem, it's simply the bottom line cost.

Wanna see how the system "really" works?:

At 4/05/2008 2:32 PM, Blogger bobble said...

KauaiMark's H1B link got cut off. here's where to find it KauaiMarks H1B

bringing in more H1B's lowers wages in IT and engineering.

i would, AGAIN, ask professor perry to explain in economic terms how lowering wages will result in more americans graduating in IT and engineering.

At 4/05/2008 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the engineers I know run their own businesses.

Why is it that everyone imagines that the only opportunities in life are as an employee?

There is life outside the big corporations.

At 4/06/2008 9:44 AM, Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Since most engineers were forbidden the use of the safe-harbor provisions of the tax law (the handiwork of Daniel Patrick Moynihan), lots of them could no longer be self-employed.  This happened around 1990.


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