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4/21/2006
06:10 PM
Rob Preston
Rob Preston
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Down To Business: IT Globalization: Don't Kill the Messenger

Don't try to seal off our borders, either. Employment and pay are up, so we must be doing something right.

In response to my column two weeks ago on tech offshoring and globalization, I received the usual hate mail for my unpatriotic, elitist views. Critics said I was condoning policies that would hasten the U.S. economy's "race to the bottom." I was advocating the decimation of the middle class. I was naively unaware of a government conspiracy to suppress "the truth" about offshore outsourcing.

"If you take the time to pull your head out of your ass," wrote one reader, "[you'd realize] most Americans don't have any problem with trade in general. They just think it's stupid to sell out, and bad for our future." In other words, the free cross-border flow of goods, services, and people is fine in theory ... but in theory only.

In another bile-laden E-mail, a reader argued that Bill Gates--the person who has created more high-paying tech jobs and donated more money to charity than anyone in human history--is a lowlife for wanting access to more foreign nationals under an expanded H-1B work visa program.

Of course, not everyone opposed to H-1B visas and globalization is a quack. One former programming analyst who is barely making ends meet in a lesser job says all H-1B visas should be canceled as long as any American IT, call center, or similar worker is not gainfully employed in his or her field. "It's bad enough to send jobs overseas," he says, "but [it's] a slap in the face to then bring in tens of thousands of cheap workers to take what jobs are left."

So how many tech jobs are left in the United States? About 3.5 million--the most in U.S. history, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of IT management jobs is up 31% from 2001, just before the dot-com bubble burst, while the number of IT staff jobs is up slightly. Management and staff pay is at an all-time high as well, according to an InformationWeek Research survey of 10,425 IT professionals.

The stats show there are still some soft spots. Compensation is up only slightly from a year ago, mostly because of bonuses rather than salary increases. And while the overall tech employment numbers are up, the number of Americans developing and managing software is down from its all-time high, thus the call from the former programming analyst to scrap the H-1B visa program.

But rather than create tech jobs in the United States, such a protectionist move would destroy them. Whether we like it or not, if Microsoft or Citibank or Boeing can't get the software and other tech talent they need in the United States at the price points their shareholders demand, then they'll move those operations overseas, en masse. That 100-person development team in the United States with 10 visa-carrying foreign nationals will shrink to a handful of locals managing many more full-timers and outsourcers in Bangalore or Prague. That's job creation?

And what about those foreign-born tech professionals? Silicon Valley is home to hundreds of companies that were founded and are led by immigrants or visa-carrying expatriates. They have created high-paying jobs for tens of thousands of people. Yet if you ride the populist propaganda on globalization to its extreme, they're just a bunch of job-stealing foreigners.

In countries that "protect" their citizen workforces--places like France and Germany, where regulations treat professionals to job security and liberal benefits--unemployment rates are twice the U.S. level. No one can lose a job in those two countries ... but no one can find one there, either. Few multinational companies dare to locate, train, and hire more than just minimal resources in those countries. Entrepreneurism is stifled.

Back in the United States, despite minimal unemployment, times are tough for professionals even in vibrant industries such as health care, entertainment, and media. Conventional delivery platforms are being torn up and transformed. Customer demands are changing rapidly, so skill sets must as well.

Adapt or be marginalized. There's no other choice.

Rob Preston,
VP/Editor In Chief
rpreston@cmp.com


To find out more about Rob Preston, please visit his page.

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