Scholars debunk claims of high-tech workers shortage, question tech industry’s ‘free pass’

“Four prominent scholars on Friday questioned why the high-tech industry gets a free pass to perpetuate the myth that there is a shortage of American workers in jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM),” Tony Lee reports for Breitbart. “Unlike industry lobbyists and politicians who have repeated that claim in an attempt to secure more high-tech visas that would lower the wages of American workers, the scholars presented firm evidence to debunk the notion that the high-tecn industry is suffering from a lack of qualified American workers.”

“On a Friday conference call that was organized by the office of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)… Hal Salzman, a Rutgers University public policy professor, said current wages in the high-tech and information technology (IT) industries do not reflect a labor shortage,” Lee reports. “‘Average wages in IT today are the same as they were when Bill Clinton was president well over a decade ago,’ Salzman said. ‘So one has to wonder if there is in fact a shortage, why doesn’t that reflect in the market? Why don’t wages go up?’ Norm Matloff, a professor of computer science at University of California at Davis, simply said, ‘When you talk about solutions, you have to ask whether there was a problem to begin with.'”

“Matloff said the high-tech industry has gotten a ‘free ride’ from the media and enjoys a very ‘positive image’ in this debate, which he said has ‘really been a non-debate,'” Lee reports. “The myth that there are such widespread labor shortages in the high-tech industry has been debunked in numerous studies, but Republicans and Democrats have continued to, as the scholars noted, perpetuate it without being challenged on their specious claims. High-tech lobbies like Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s have poured in millions of dollars in high-profile campaigns to secure more high-tech visas.”

“Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who has worked on these issues for more than a decade, said on the conference call that the H-1B visas that are filling the supposed ‘gaps’ are ‘doing more harm than good’ to the U.S. science and engineering workforce,” Lee reports. “He noted that the majority of the H-1B visas are being used for “cheaper workers” from abroad and mentioned that offshoring firms used 50% of the cap last year to further their business model of bringing in ‘lower-cost H-1B workers to replace American workers.’ Salzman said that even after American software engineers train their replacements, they cannot speak out about their experiences for fear of being blackballed or having to forfeit their severance payments.

“Hira said that the H-1B program has run amok because ‘Congress sets the wage floors way too low’ and ‘far below the market wages for American workers’ while not placing any ‘requirement to look for or recruit American workers first, so there is no displacement of American workers,'” Lee reports. “‘As a result, you are basically inducing companies to game the system to bring foreign workers to undercut American workers,’ Hira noted. ‘Instead of complimenting the U.S. workers as it should, it’s substituting for the U.S. workforce and taking away future opportunities by shifting the work overseas.’ Salzman said that in this arrangement, the employer has nearly total control of the ‘indentured’ H1-B workers because they hold their work permits. Matloff agreed, saying that figuratively ‘handcuffing’ foreign workers is even ‘more important than saving on wages’ because employers can ‘prevent foreign workers from leaving’ in the middle of projects, unlike with American workers.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

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Tech industry cautiously welcomes U.S. Senate immigration bill – April 17, 2013
Republican Senator suggests that Microsoft lay off foreigners ahead of Americans – January 27, 2009


  1. This goes on under the nose of congress while Apple and Google (and others) are sued in a class-action law suit for agreeing not to hire one another’s employees. Who’s going to sue the US gov’t? No one. You can’t. They can do anything they want.

    1. That’s certainly the bad attitude #MyStupidGovernment demonstrates. But they already went over the line to the point of inciting revolution. The public simply hasn’t noticed or bothered to care. Some day they will, and it won’t be pretty. I just hope the drive to fix the horrific problems overcomes the shear disgust and drive to destroy. I never have much faith in mob behavior.

      For those of you who don’t comprehend what we’re talking about, don’t worry. The time is not, apparently, ripe for positive change.

  2. Damn straight. This is about continuing to exploit Asian students long after grad school. That is why so many students from China and India are going back to their home countries after grad school in the U.S.

  3. Or is it simply that American companies want the best and brightest in order to stay on top with software?

    The rest of the world has figured out how to manufacture and build components . . . but (generalizing here) most of the best software — or in the case of Microsoft, ubiquitous — is owned by United States companies.

    Perhaps lower wages is the nice byproduct of these firms’ more direct desire to bring in the most talented people from all over the globe so as to remain kings of the mountain?

    1. If these foreign students represent the “best and brightest,” then why do they agree to work for lower wages? Why must they come to this country to get educated? And why have most major technological advancements in this and the previous century happened in the United States?

      1. Hey man, I gave you 5 stars. But seriously, do you really think that all the advances come from the states? Please get a map and realise there is a big world out there! The phone was invented in the UK, the microchip was invented in the UK..and we continue to make advances like the rest of the world. I mentioned those two points you know because of the iPhone. Tell you what mate, get your iPhone out and hit Maps and look around at the rest of the world (pinch out/single finger swipe) Yep, that’s planet E-a-r-t-h. Apple make great shit and I love it. But please get a life and acknowledge the rest of the world! (by the way you speak ENGLISH 😉

        1. My usual point: Positive cultures engender positive creativity. It’s not about ‘the world’. It’s about a world that encourages, supports and provides incentive for creativity.

          IOW: Creative people are NOT simply born. Their experiences and the culture around ALSO determine whether they will actually be allowed to, or want to be creative.

          Example: In China, very few people WANT to be creative because their current horrible culture and government makes kills the creative incentive. Throwing education at them changes nothing. I don’t know why that problem is so hard to grasp. But it’s right there for anyone to watch, including China.

  4. It depends on what specific skills you are talking about.

    I had a client which worked exclusively with Sprint in developing software for its mobile phone networks. My client had to hire computer programmers from India and Pakistan because they simply could not find Americans who knew how to program – they all were educated in college on putting together Microsoft networks and running server software, but very few could actually write code.

    My client would have loved to hire more American programmers because then they would not have to deal with employee visa issues. Often they would hire someone, but it would be 6 months or more before the person could start working because of visa problems.

    1. Another item: My client wasn’t paying less for these foreign programmers either. If anything, they wound up paying more because they picked up much of the costs of obtaining visas and even some housing/moving expenses. Salaries were based on experience, and would have been the same for American programmers (they paid well).

  5. EXCELLENT article. A fascinating topic.

    We know full well that the current US youth culture STILL denigrates serious science (versus ‘show science’) and technology in favor of superficial pursuits.

    But what a great insight to watch the demand for low wage visa hires making that problem EVEN WORSE. That’s profound.

    Obviously, it’s all about the financial game, despite technology being a creative field. That’s an illness in the industry. But there’s always some gamer demanding the rules are played his twisted way. Wall Nut Street is clearly part of the problem. Self-destructive behavior provides self-destructive results. Same old story.

  6. Safe guess that anyone that believes this article has never been a hiring manager or recruiter… “higher education” in the USA has become just another industry focused on profit and slick marketing. College graduates today are not as capable as they were 15 years ago; curriculums have been dumbed down to allow the “no child left behind” generation in. Actually, it’s the parents’ money they want “in”, the student is just an inconvenient, but necessary, money vector. Sucker born every 29 seconds; hard classes earn hard cash.

    Science, math, engineering degrees are what is needed. Too often, students opt for the “(pick a discipline) Technology” major; which is just a watered down, “easier” version of an actual major. Colleges push them as “what industry is looking for” and take their money; with the graduate eventually complaining about the job market (along with the art, history and art history majors) as they are flipping burgers with their expensive, useless degrees.

    “Land of opportunity” is for people seeking exactly that; our “best and brightest” are in their parent’s basements playing Call of Duty instead if studying for their college algebra test – the rest of the world took algebra in junior high school.

    Cheaper and better is hard to beat.

    1. There’s probably some truth in this, but the flip side of the coin is that when an industry’s wages are artificially held down (buy such tricks as this one), then the “Best and Brightest” are going to go into other careers.

      And case in point, a literal quote from my FB feed from a friend whose job has been ‘outsourced’ to try to save money:

      “More follies with the offshore company hired (for well over $1 million) for their long experience and great expertise in converting Mainframe applications to a Java/Unix environment so the {recused} can be decommissioned. They have scheduled a meeting with me to explain to them the differences between EBCDIC and ASCII.”

      Yes, you read that correctly: the cheap offshore “Expert” doesn’t know the difference between ASCII and EBCDIC character sets – -but they got the contract anyway!

      One simply can’t make this stuff up.

      Bottom line is that the only thing that these VISA programs do is to artificially supress wages.

      Here’s how to really solve the problem (and call industry’s bluff): slash the supply of VISAs by 80% and then have the Government –> AUCTION <– them off to the highest bidder. The result is that the Open Market will then decide what these Visas are really worth.


      1. It depends what you mean by “artificial”. Wages in the US are being held up artificially by a closed labor market and minimum wage laws. It’s all a matter perspective.

        1. Certainly so, although it is a tad difficult to say that the labor market is materially closed when there’s still unemployment (particularly at current levels) … as well as underemployment … as well as illegal immegrents employment … as well as this and other Visa programs.

          Similarly, the mimimum wage certainly also has elements of social engineering for which we would need to consider the implications…and let’s not neglect to remember that it too has a lot of holes and exceptions too which benefit certain industries.

          In any case, we can also see that a higher Min Wage raises the bottom while the Tech Visas holds down the top, which results in systematic compensation compression – – and another implication of this is that this compensation compression makes a higher education an even less cost effective of an investment.

  7. Short version: This is bullshit.

    I’ve worked in technology at top-notch companies for 15 years. Scholars haven’t. It’s is damn near *impossible* to find good American talent. Companies I’ve worked for have *never* been on a tight budget and will do whatever it takes to get quality engineers. Anyone can write code. Not everyone can architect and design and own major areas of functionality.

    Perhaps there isn’t a shortage of “technical” people, but that’s not the same as an engineer/designer/architect that all the big successful companies want.

    We don’t *want* to hire overseas, frankly. There are culture clashes, language barriers, different expectations on what an engineer should be capable of. So, most companies that have brought in non-Americans, even if they are saving money (which they typically aren’t) are getting a sub-par candidate which is better than an empty opening. I’ve seen positions over for over a year. I’ve seen postings (required by law) that are advertising positions that are potentially going to be offered to someone overseas. The salaries are as competitive as they could possibly be.

    Anyways, this madness needs to stop. There is a huge shortage of highly-qualified technical people. Ask anyone that does hiring for Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, any decent startup, etc.

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