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3/1/2013
03:24 PM
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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 | 10:02:25 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
more b/s from the companies that want to depress wages. In America, where we have free markets, if you don't want to offer up the going price for a product, then you don't get to buy it. What you don't get to do, is to operate in the United States, and then undercut taxpayers by importing in low/no-skilled job-robbers. If you want to tap into the endless supply of geniuses in india, then do more outsourcing, we have the the inter-web these days, no need to import in the "talent". Stop with the lies and propaganda, H1b is all about depressing wages and getting around labor laws and standards that we've established in this country. All of shit "shortage" crap has been proven to be a big myth, and going down the H1b rabbit hole even more will only cause any existing problems that we might have to get even worse. Now that the economy is getting better, companies want to maintain their margins without sharing in the recovery, and the best way to do that is to import in scab H1b workers. END H1B NOW!!!!
jcanale
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jcanale,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 10:15:01 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
This was never about finding talent that wasn't available locally. It was about money - as most everything is these days (greed being taken to new levels).

The outsourcing companies (they help you either bring in H1B or use offshore staff) explained how they do it as they pitch to the software development companies in the U.S..

It went like this:

Place an ad in the local newspapers that requires a laundry list of technologies for far below the average salary being paid for those that have that experience/talent. Anyone that actually meets the credentials is certainly making much, much more and they won't be anyone applying for the position (it's like asking for credentials of a doctor but with a salary for the position of a nurse).

Then, without being able to hire locally, you can outsource and get a person that is experienced in a small subset of the laundry list of technologies (that's all that is needed anyway) and you get to hire them according to the requirements with no consequences.

The H1B workers will work 12-15 hour days (and weekends since many come here and have no family) and they are put into the cheapest housing that's available.

The final result: very low cost labor that simply cannot be matched by US workers (they don't pay into the system the same way that we do).
jcanale
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jcanale,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 10:21:36 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Just to add to the previous comment:

Now we really have created an actual shortage because kids don't want to pursue a career where the jobs will go overseas and where the salary compensation is being pushed down due to outsourcing. This will certainly harm the US as much of the innovation will not happen here in the US. I wonder if the greedy executives thought of this happening (though they will certainly cash out while they can).
eafpres
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eafpres,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2013 | 11:27:46 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
The study sounds like a thesis on the fox watching the chicken coop. You put a CS prof in charge of a funded study with an agenda to show USA-citizen students are brighter, so correlations are tested and presumed to be causality. If that is the kind of education our brightest CS and other tech students are getting, there is even more to worry over.

The citation of one disgruntled worker seems very out of place. Perhaps more evidence was edited out for length?

A factor not mentioned in the story or other comments is that many of these students were educated here in the USA. Our universities love these students because they often pay more, as non-residents. Hiring them for a period of time after we educate them is a recouping of our investment (too little, as it may be) in higher education, in part.

Finally, if it is cheaper for companies to hire people on H1Bs, then companies will do so. But cheaper isn't just the salary, as already noted in these comments. There is also a real price of training (the comments of another writer here notwithstanding) and turnover. It has become more common that these workers, many of whom would like to get permanent green cards and stay and work productively in the USA, are sent "home"; this increased after 9/11 and has not abated as far as I know. So most companies hiring an H1B holder would know they will have to do it again in a few years, and factor in that cost, and the other administrative costs. Bottom line is just because it is net cheaper does not mean it is not to the benefit (overall) of our economy.
vbierschwale
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vbierschwale,
User Rank: Strategist
3/5/2013 | 12:37:05 AM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
As the little ole lady from wendy's said, where's the beef?

Show me some proof of a labor shortage.

Better yet, quit hiding behind an anonymous name and work with me to prove or disprove what you are saying.

All of us can show you many projects that have failed and document them.

As a matter of fact, my email is vbiersch@gmail.com and I'm always interested in hearing your stories about what is working, and what isn't.

As for me not getting out of my comfort zone, my typical day starts around 5 or 6 and I work till 8 or 9 at night for free every single day, seven days a week.

All of this to figure out what is happening and what isn't, so yes, I think I can say without a doubt that you've had too much company koolaide to drink.

But my offer still stands.

I'm more than willing to work with you to bring opportunity back to america.

After all, that is why you immigrated here, is it not?
vbierschwale
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vbierschwale,
User Rank: Strategist
3/5/2013 | 12:41:27 AM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
amen.
what is worse and nobody seems to want to touch it is that by sending our jobs offshore, or importing visa holders, we are effectively destroying the equity our homeowners have in america.

Do the math.

Average out america, china, india.

Once enough jobs have left, that will be the new median wage in america.

In other words, america was 49,000
china about 5,000
india about 1.800

total them up and divide them by 3 and that is where wages will stabilize.

Now do ya'll still think that this is good for america?
Indian_H1B
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Indian_H1B,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 1:10:40 AM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Here's what foreign talent may be able to do to your "analysis".

1) The arithmetic mean of the three numbers is extraordinarily wrong. You will always need a "number of workers" metric to weigh the salaries of the 3 nations before you arrive at any average.

2) It makes no sense to use per capita incomes. You need to zoom in on the industry and use the wages therein. Presumably IT is the proxy industry of interest.

3) The US exports more services than it imports (measured in $s). Your call to:
- Stop all outsourcing of service jobs
- Stop all employment of foreign nationals
will result in a situation where the US ends up losing more jobs since non-US countries will no longer buy the services the US exports with the US no longer importing services from abroad.
Not.Disgruntled
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Not.Disgruntled,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 4:12:56 AM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
"The citation of one disgruntled worker seems very out of place."

Ah, I was waiting for that. I'm the person, Marnie Dunsmore, that was quoted in this article. I actually run my own consulting company.

As a consultant, and someone who is mid-career, I often sample the W2 market. I rarely if ever get called back, even though my skills are up to date: people hire me as a consultant.

The assertion of code.org and those lobbying Congress for an H-1B increase is that there is a huge skill shortage. If so, then I would be getting calls all the time. I rarely get calls for W2 job postings.

Moreover, among my mid-career peer group, no one else is getting calls either. We've all got more than ten years of experience and are therefore too expensive for Bill Gate's/Tim Cook's/Sergey Brin's sub $100K/year pro rata salary.

You talk about the price of training. As a contractor, I'm well aware of the price of training, but if you are an engineer or computer scientist who likes to work on different things, the reality of a job market where companies don't invest in training isn't exactly career inspiring.

I'm old enough to remember the days of Nortel and HP where engineers were valued team members, not replacement parts.

Companies may win in the short term with low paid, H-1B, replacement part workers, but they will eventually have trouble with engineers that are less than able or willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.

moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
3/5/2013 | 12:00:16 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
The point the industry wants to make is that there is not enough "cheap IT talent", always omitting that their endless thirst for H1B is nothing more than an attempt at cost savings. It is not about innovation, it is entirely about being competitive financially by pushing labor cost down.
The Zuckerbergs of the industry should just put a few pennies of their obnoxious riches to good use and train the talent that they need. Sure, some may jump ship later and go for the greener grass on the other side,but it will be up to the companies to convince employees that there is no greener grass than the one they stand on right now. This constant whining is getting old, train and retain workers and treat them well. The days of a disposable workforce need to be over.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
3/5/2013 | 12:02:56 PM
re: H-1B Workers Not Best Or Brightest, Study Says
Yes, they thought of that because it is exactly what they want. Cut costs now and bully congress into increasing the H1B limits. Anything to drive down expenses and increase shareholder value. Who cares where the companies are in 10 years from today. The CEOs are long gone to a different company or all set for the rest of their lives after exercising their stock options.
<<   <   Page 2 / 8   >   >>
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
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