If the U.S. does not adjust its immigration policies to make it easier for foreign-born tech workers to reside in the country, it could fall behind the rest of the world in growth and innovation, say the authors of a new study that's sure to provoke controversy.
"There is a significant gap between the kind of graduates the U.S. is producing and what the American economy needs today and in the future," said officials at the Partnership for A New American Economy, in a statement. "U.S. companies are hungry for talent with degrees in STEM [Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering]--these jobs are increasing three times faster than jobs in the rest of the economy. However, these positions are the hardest to fill because of the dearth of native-born Americans with these degrees."
The group's study, provocatively titled "Not Coming To America," said that only 4.4% of U.S.-born undergraduates are enrolled in STEM programs. That compares poorly with 33.9% for students in Singapore, 31.2% for those in China, 12.4% for Germany, and 6.1% in the U.K. As a result, the U.S. will face a shortage of 224,000 hi-tech workers by 2018, the study says.
According to the group, which is backed by leaders from tech, media, and financial giants, including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer and JP Morgan Chase's Jamie Dimon, as well as municipal leaders like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that means the country needs to open up its immigration policies to make up for the shortfall.
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"We are quickly losing our edge as other countries adopt smarter, economic-driven immigration policies. The future is on the line--now is the time to reform the system and welcome the workers who will continue our success as the world's leading economy," said Bloomberg, in statement. The Partnership for New York City also backed the study.
The study's authors said the U.S. needs to take several steps to ensure that the supply of tech talent meets future demand.
They called on Congress and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to establish a new visa category for foreign entrepreneurs looking to launch startups, to set aside more H-1B visas and green cards for foreign students enrolled in STEM programs at U.S. institutions, and to offer tax breaks for American tech workers who have moved abroad to encourage them to return home.