Enterprise Software

Are corporations using foreign workers to depress U.S. wages?

According to Business Week, the median income for computer professionals has fallen by $800 since 2000, when adjusted for inflation, despite an unbelievable 1.8% unemployment rate in the sector. Generally, when unemployment falls so low, the market adjusts as companies try to outbid each other for the best workers, and salaries climb as they did so dramatically during the late 1990s. Today, despite historically low levels of unemployment, particularly in the tech sector, wages are stagnant and have been for several years.

According to Business Week, the median income for computer professionals has fallen by $800 since 2000, when adjusted for inflation, despite an unbelievable 1.8% unemployment rate in the sector. Generally, when unemployment falls so low, the market adjusts as companies try to outbid each other for the best workers, and salaries climb as they did so dramatically during the late 1990s. Today, despite historically low levels of unemployment, particularly in the tech sector, wages are stagnant and have been for several years. Some people blame this on the large number of H1-B visas that are given out by the government, purportedly to fill jobs that corporations say Americans aren't either interested in or qualified for.

The Great Tech Worker Divide (Business Week)

On the other side of the same coin, there are a lot of people who also bring up the problem of "brain drain" from too few visas being given out, leading foreigners with advanced degrees to return to their countries and add their technical know-how to an economy outside of the United States. Another problem is the desire that corporations have to keep costs down in order to maintain high-profitability marks, a desire that causes companies to do what is best for their interests rather than what is best for Americans. Politicians have also not done anything to address a decline in technology graduates that could be a result of a lack of interest, or it could also be an issue caused by the reluctance of corporations to pay market rates for qualified Americans.

U.S. Facing Tech Labor 'Brain Drain' Due To Immigration Law, Study Says (CNN Money)

Are America's software skills getting soft? (Wisconsin Technology Network)

There are obviously several ways of looking at this issue, but I am a proponent of doing what is best for Americans above most other considerations. I see a lot of utility in extending visas to highly-educated foreign nationals in order to keep them, and their research, in the United States. However, the companies that hire them should first make sure that there are no qualified Americans to take the job, and then they should have to pay the prevailing market wage to the foreigners in order to avoid depressing the market for Americans.

This is definitely a sticky issue with a lot of room on either side, but what would you do to encourage Americans to get into the technical fields, keep the best foreigners in America to help us stay the top technical innovator, and keep wages high enough that Americans will continue to choose technical work? Would you increase or decrease the number of temporary visas or permanent work cards given out? Would you force companies to hire Americans first and fill in their ranks when there aren't Americans left for the jobs? Would you regulate the wages that companies can pay? What would you do to address the needs of tech workers in America against the need to keep the best and brightest in America?

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