I am nearing the end of my series of blogs on the issue of some major U.S. companies replacing American technical workers with foreign stem (science, technical, engineering and math) college graduates, who are holding H-1B or L-1B visas. These businesses not only replace their U.S. employees with less expensive labor but often, they also expect those fired to train their replacements. The intent of these organizations’ executives is to cut costs to improve their bottom line in order to please their stockholders, investors, Wall Street and business news pundits. Then these top level managers frequently award themselves huge salary increases and bonuses.
The following article authored by a business pundit reflects companies’ viewpoints about the hiring of H-1B visa holders. In the 10/29/15 U.S. News and World Report, “Trump, Rubio Miss the Mark on H1-B Visas,” the reporter, Tom Risen argues that these Republican candidates had their facts wrong during the debate when they talked about misuse of a skilled immigrant labor program. Here are some excerpts from his commentary:
“Immigration is among the top issues during this election cycle, but Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida both have their facts wrong when it comes to H1-B visas.”
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“During the Republican debate on Wednesday, both characterized the visa program as damaging to American workers. Rubio defended his support for the I-Squared Bill which would triple the number of H1-B visas offered annually for skilled foreign workers, but added a caveat, calling for companies that want to hire a skilled worker from overseas to first advertise the job for 180 days to ensure Americans have an opportunity to apply for the job first.”
“You also have to prove that you’re going to pay these people more than you would pay someone else so that you’re not undercutting it by bringing in cheap labor,” Rubio said during the debate.
“The H1-B visa program is capped at 85,000 annually for the entire U.S., so tech companies like Facebook and Microsoft have lobbied hard in recent years to expand the program. Technology companies represent the majority of firms that every April race to apply for the small pool of such visas available through the system, according to employment site and immigrant labor database MyVisaJobs.com.”
“But experts say the visa system is not damaging American salaries or their chance at getting a job in Silicon Valley. Jonathan Rothwell, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, points out that “H1-B workers are paid at least as well as their American counterparts” and the unemployment rate for computer workers is not high relative to other occupations. Salaries for tech occupations have also increased faster than wages for other jobs during the past decade despite the use of the skilled immigrant workers, he says, citing research he completed in 2013.”
“Indeed, a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics state that the U.S. are not graduating enough students with skills in science, math and technology to meet the growing demand. The U.S. will need approximately one million more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professionals than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next decade if the country is to retain its historical preeminence in science and technology, according to the BLS report.”
“Data from MyVisaJobs shows that the top 25 companies sponsoring H1-B visa workers – including Google, Apple and Microsoft – offer foreign workers an average salary that is competitive with wages offered to Americans for tech occupations. The national average salary for a software engineer, for instance, is $90,000, according to employment site Glassdoor.”
“Skilled computer jobs are among the hardest to fill and the vacancies stay open for the longest period of time,” he says, adding that Rubio’s proposal for companies to wait 180 days is “an absurdly long period of time to wait to fill a skilled position.”
“The H1-B visa system does have its flaws, however. Foreign workers can become dependent on the company sponsoring them while they apply for full citizenship, says Neil Ruiz, executive director of the Center for Law, Economics and Finance at George Washington University. This sponsorship can make it difficult for workers to seek more competitive pay or a better job opportunity during that waiting period.”
“That long waiting period for citizenship is in part due to the U.S. requirement that “no one nation can represent more than 7.5 percent of green cards every year,” a limit China and India often reach, says Andy Halataei, senior vice president at the Information Technology Industry Council trade group.”
“We have supported legislation to repeal those caps,” Halataei says, adding that green cards for skilled visa workers “should be awarded to the most qualified applicants on a first come, first serve basis.”
“Halataei says tech companies can advertise a job for 10 months before they fill a position while they wait for the annual pool of H1-B visas to become available – much longer than the job application time period proposed by Rubio.”
The above U.S News and World Report refers to the MyVisaJobs.com to bolster their contention that companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft pay their H-1B holders competitive wages when compared to U.S. workers as per Glassdoor’s technical pay average, which is over $90,000 per year. Instead, this website’s list of the top 25 companies seeking foreign visa stem workers, proves that the top three corporations pay significantly less than $90,000 per year. As a matter of fact, 13 out of the 25 top users of the H-1B visas pay less monies.
Then the author referred to information on a study garnered from the May 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics to support his belief that there is a shortage of U.S. skilled technical college graduates. While the Bureau of Labor does report on a study demonstrating U.S. demand for stem workers far exceeding the number of qualified U.S. college graduates, the BOL (Bureau of Labor) document stresses that there are many experts which disagree with this study. Excerpts verifying this point are as follows:
“The ongoing STEM (The science, engineering, mathematics, and information technology) debate. Depending on the definition, the size of the STEM workforce can range from 5 percent to 20 percent of all U.S. workers. Although fields such as computer programming and mechanical engineering are generally considered STEM fields, there is less consensus on areas such as medicine, architecture, science education, social sciences, and blue-collar manufacturing work. In this article, “STEM” refers to the science, engineering, mathematics, and information technology domain detailed by the Standard Occupation Classification Policy Committee, but excluding managerial and sales occupations. Under this definition, post-secondary teachers in STEM fields and lab technicians are considered STEM workers, but workers in skilled trades, such as machinists, are not. Our analysis focuses on graduates with post-secondary education within this STEM domain.”
“Numerous reports detail the growing concern of policymakers and industry leaders regarding a shortage in the STEM workforce believed necessary to sustain the U.S. innovation enterprise, global competitiveness, and national security. Most notable is the National Academies’ report Rising Above the Gathering Storm, which called for improvements in kindergarten through 12th-grade science and mathematics education and increasing the attractiveness of higher education, among other recommendations. The report highlighted troubling issues in a number of areas: low STEM retention rates, a relative decline in the number of U.S. citizens enrolled in science and engineering graduate school, and lower percentages of STEM graduates than those of other developed countries. These sentiments were echoed in a 2012 report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee which stated that the current STEM workforce was falling short of demand in both STEM and non-STEM occupations. According to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, the United States would need to increase its yearly production of undergraduate STEM degrees by 34 percent over current rates to match the demand forecast for STEM professionals.”
“There are, however, many who hold a different view. For example, Michael S. Teitelbaum, vice president of the Sloan Foundation, opined that there are no general shortages of scientists and engineers. He went even further, to state that there is evidence suggesting surpluses: there are significantly more science and engineering graduates in the United States than attractive positions available in the workforce. Similarly, B. Lindsay Lowell and Harold Salzman have pointed to the disproportionate percentage of bachelor’s degree STEM holders not employed in STEM occupations.”
“Looking at the STEM labor market, Salzman and colleagues concluded that, for every two students graduating with a U.S. STEM degree, only one is employed in STEM and that 32 percent of computer science graduates not employed in information technology attributed their situation to a lack of available jobs. In 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 74 percent of those who have a bachelor’s degree in a STEM major are not employed in STEM occupations.”