Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
News
3/1/2013
03:24 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

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
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
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."

[ Are mobile phones emasculating? Attention Google: 12 Ways To Make Smartphones More Manly. ]

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."

Attend Interop Las Vegas, May 6-10, and attend the most thorough training on Apple Deployment at the NEW Mac & iOS IT Conference. Use Priority Code DIPR03 by March 9 to save up to $500 off the price of Conference Passes. Join us in Las Vegas for access to 125+ workshops and conference classes, 350+ exhibiting companies, and the latest technology. Register for Interop today!

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 8   >   >>
vbierschwale
50%
50%
vbierschwale,
User Rank: Apprentice
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
Tronist
50%
50%
Tronist,
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.
ekwang917
50%
50%
ekwang917,
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.
braya
50%
50%
braya,
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.
SRAUT88
50%
50%
SRAUT88,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 8:20:37 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Well if you only look at Microsoft and you only make comparison by pay (isn't lower pay the reason why employers went after H1B in the first place) then this study becomes practically useless. Researchers in UCD just had to look around the CS PhD students (I bet 70% foreign students in any PhD class today in US) to know who really cares for higher education today. Not sure if that's an accurate measure of talent either but still gives a rough idea of where we are. That said, I don't think that's the point...

It shouldn't take a PhD research to know that hiring H1B is just a medium and this is one of the many cards in the game of business called cost reduction. We should argue about the morality of this as much as we have argued about shallow advertising in mainstream media, the 8 years America spent in jail under Bush, outrageous food culture,etc. There's plenty ;)

But...As a consumer, if you want to avoid paying outrageous price for your laptop and keep up with global competition (yes, including laptop price) then we can't help but live with the business decisions that keep the price within our range. As a professional, you should focus on improving your skills today on a global market that is always changing and keep our minds open, hey Sweden is not that bad a place to live ;) As a country, we should stop thinking that we need to be obligated to keep jobs within our countries but come up with ways to keep the workforce current, motivated, and globally aware.
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/4/2013 | 9:04:14 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
The issue is also complicated by lack of transparency with regard to the employment process. From what I hear, requirements to seek a U.S. worker for a position before seeking someone from outside the country are routinely pro forma exercises, done without any real intent to hire a U.S. worker. Intent is difficult to prove however.
kburgess856
50%
50%
kburgess856,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 9:19:47 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Better or smarter workers? Well, they might speak more than one language, but the ONLY reason they're being hired here is because they do anything for less.
Anna85054
50%
50%
Anna85054,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 9:37:01 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
There is a major flaw in the assumption that talent and salary are correlated without the visa status impacting the salary. As an employer the cost for an employee are salary, benefits and (if the worker is a foreigner) legal and visa fees. For a foreign worker to be competitive, he must match talent/skills and cost. Thus the added legal fees are likely to be in indirectly deducted from the pay.
apiecka
50%
50%
apiecka,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 9:52:39 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
It does appear that there is some conflict in what the industry leaders are saying. The video appears to make it look like it's a simple problem to eliminate the perceived shortage of software professionals. All we have to do is start teaching programming in grade school. It is deceptively easy to learn the basics of programming and then project that a person will have a good career and a nice income with practice. If will.i.am can do it, surely we can expect many others can, but I'm sure he wouldn't trade his career for being a programmer. If it's so easy to do this, and all that's needed is to teach it starting in grade school, then that essentially pushes the programming profession to a commodity status, not a place where will.i.am would want to be. It would be more like an assembly line worker and less like a profession. The focus here appears to be that many of these jobs that go unfilled could be filled if we only had enough basic computer programmers to do the jobs.

Perhaps this is the case. Perhaps all these technical jobs that go wanting are the assembly line work of today. But if this were true, then we shouldn't see the experience of Marnie Dunsmore when it comes to hiring. The hiring managers should be very happy to have a person with any sort of reasonable background apply because that person should be able to pick up what's needed quickly. But the hiring experience is very often the opposite. The manager wants a list of skills that are absolutely necessary to fulfill the needs of the position. These are generally not really skills but rather background with specific tools, protocols, or processes. The candidate with the real skills of problem solving, software architecture and planning, design, and logical algorithm development will be eliminated by a resume keyword search, leaving a person like Marnie to wonder what is really important to the hiring manager.

So then which is it? Do we have jobs that can't be filled because the candidates need experience working with specific software related products or standards that are too expensive and time consuming for a company to teach (Marnie's experience), or should we believe that they can't be filled because applicants are unwilling to learn or potential applicants haven't been taught all the needed skills before entering the workforce? Either way the hiring entity shows an unwillingness to invest in a person to assure that the work gets done. I know that for places like Dice, there are counts of applications published for various openings, so the companies are getting responses and there isn't a shortage of applicants. The obvious conclusion then is that the companies are trying to minimize risk and labor cost.
DAVIDINIL
50%
50%
DAVIDINIL,
User Rank: Strategist
3/4/2013 | 9:53:24 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
My company hires H1-B COBOL programmers. Entry level COBOL programmers. THe H1-B rules stipulate that the foreigner must only be hired if he/she posesses skills that cannot be obtained via an American worker.

America has a glut of COBOL talent that is sitting unemployed. Business will not hire them because they can hire an H1-B for 1/2 the cost.

This practice is just an attempt by business to depress wages. President Obama decries the demise of the middle class. Using H1-B workers is contributing to this demise. The Obama Administration must stand up for the middle class and not wall street.
Page 1 / 8   >   >>
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
InformationWeek surveyed 11,662 IT pros across 30 industries about their pay, benefits, job satisfaction, outsourcing, and more. Some of the results will surprise you.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.