H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says - InformationWeek
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H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says

Skilled foreign worker programs are causing a U.S. brain drain, an Economic Policy Institute report says.

2012 Salary Survey: 12 Career Insights
2012 Salary Survey: 12 Career Insights
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Managers of high-tech companies insist they need more H-1B visas for foreign IT workers to ensure access to the best and brightest workforce. But a study released on Thursday finds that imported IT talent is often less talented than U.S. workers.

The study, published by the Economic Policy Institute and conducted by Norman Matloff, professor of computer science at the University of California in Davis, compares U.S. and foreign IT workers' salaries, rates of PhD awards, doctorates earned and employment in research and development to determine whether those admitted to the U.S. under the H-1B visa program have skills beyond those of U.S. IT workers.

Based on Matloff's analysis, there's no evidence that those granted H-1B visas offer exceptional talents.

"We thus see that no best and brightest trend was found for the former foreign students in either computer science or electrical engineering," Matloff writes in his report. "On the contrary, in the CS case the former foreign students appear to be somewhat less talented on average, as indicated by their lower wages, than the Americans."

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The report concludes that the H-1B program and related work programs are not making the U.S. companies more innovative and are in some ways making them less so.

The technology industry sees things differently. It insists there's a shortage of IT talent in the U.S., based on the lack of students graduating from science, technology, engineering and math disciplines (STEM). Earlier this week, Code.org, a nonprofit organization that aims to encourage more students to learn programming, published statements from tech industry leaders that reflected the widespread assertion that there's a tech talent shortage.

As Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it in one such statement, "Our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find. There just aren't enough people who are trained and have these skills today."

Other tech industry leaders have been saying as much for years, which is why immigration programs like H-1B exist. And the tech industry's sustained complaints about lack of access to technical talent recently lead to the introduction of the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, which aims to expand the number of visas available under the H-1B program.

Outside the U.S. there are similar claims of an IT worker shortage. Last month, European Commission VP Neelie Kroes bemoaned the growing digital skills gap that threatens European competitiveness.

Critics of the H-1B program see it as a way for companies to keep IT wages low, to discriminate against experienced U.S. workers and to avoid labor law obligations.

In his examination of the presumed correlation between talent and salary, Matloff observes that Microsoft has been exaggerating how much it pays foreign workers. Citing past claims by the company that it pays foreign workers "$100,000 a year to start," Matloff says the data shows that only 18% of workers with software engineering titles sponsored for green cards by Microsoft between 2006 and 2011 had salaries at or above $100,000.

"By contrast, 34% of Microsoft's green card sponsorees with financial analyst titles made over $100,000, as did 71% of its lawyers in the PERM data," he said. "It would seem that, counter to its rhetoric, engineers are not top priority for Microsoft..."

Marnie Dunsmore, an integrated circuit engineer who has worked for companies such as Intel, said in an email that she believes the H-1B program has had the effect of making it easier to send jobs offshore and has discouraged U.S. students from seeking computer science education. And she disputed the notion that there's a shortage of U.S. IT talent.

Dunsmore recounted her experience with a recent job interview as a mixed-signal integrated circuit tester. The interviewer, she said, said was unwilling to conduct on-the-job training. "In other words, he was not willing to let me sit down with the manuals, pick up what someone else has done, and allow me to spend a couple of weeks figuring out what test code he needs to have tweaked," she explained. "Ten years ago, a test lab would have jumped at the chance to get an experienced circuit designer to do test design and coding. Now, they're so flooded with hiring options that they can turn their nose up at having to train, even for a few weeks, very experienced programmers and engineers."

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User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 8:08:10 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
First, I strongly believe that there really IS a shortage in U.S. I.T. talent. It is not just a wage & labor issue.

Second, with the current economy, are companies willing (keyword willing) to pay U.S. talent with high salaries & benefits when they can get a U.S. talent behinf the backs of a team of foreign talents to lead, train & inspect? As I've said CEO's of petitioning companies are not stupid with respect to their stockholders. They will not compromise the quality of their brand, product & service for inferior talent because that will equate to loss.

Third, I seriously think that a FEW of the current U.S. I.T. talents are a bunch of whiners who does not want to get out of their "comfort zones" and face global competition when this co was the primary and pioneering proponent for it.

As I've said, us Americans were enjoying the fruits of offshoring/outsourcing during the heydays of the economy but when it came back to bite us in the ass, the never-ending complaints & whining just never stopped like the housing bubble and healthcare jobs.

The real lesson here is GREED.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 8:00:26 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
I don't think there's a easy measurement available to determine if a foreign worker is talented or not. From what I read here, this study tries to use salary to determine if the foreign workers are more talented than their US counter part. This is not a fair comparison. Despite Federal law tries to prevent foreign workers from being exploited, the foreign workers on H1-B visa tend to get lower salary because they are on H1-B visa. It is also less likely for the foreign workers be promoted and moved to a managerial position due to communication barrier. Therefore, you can't just use salary as a basis to draw the conclusion on "talent" in this case.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 6:09:05 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
My company started replacing our in-house tech support folks a few years ago. It now takes several foreign workers a week to do what it used to take one person 15 minutes, or at most one workday, to do. So...where are the savings? This is the kind of information that middle managers seem to like to keep from upper management.
User Rank: Strategist
3/4/2013 | 2:43:10 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Folks, there is a very easy way to find out what they are getting paid, and trust me, it is much less than what you believe.

Google 1042S and IRS Databook and study them.

Take the 1042S and divide the amount that was paid to all of them by the quantity of filers.

I think you will be shocked.

Then, divide the taxes paid by the gross pay and compare it to the 1040 types on the latest irs databook.

By the way, I want to hear from any and all who have seen their jobs go offshore, or watched visa holders imported.

My email is vbiersch@gmail.com

Since nobody seems to be stepping up to the plate, I have decided to do it.
With your permission I want to tell your story at Keep America At Work

If you don't want that, I just want to use your story to get an accurate count

My suspicion is that the number is greater than we think.

Also, I would like for all of you to sign my petition to end age discrimination in the software industry.

The details can be found at Keep America At Work.

Even if it is NOT age discrimination, the last story in this article shows what many of us are going through and this story needs to be told
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