CXO

The fallacy of talent shortages and H-1B visas

We've all heard about the tech talent shortage and the need for H-1B visas. But how do you reconcile that with the soaring unemployment rate of U.S. military vets?

I, as have you, have been hearing for months about a shortage of tech talent in the U.S. I, probably unlike you, have been on the receiving end of emails from countless U.S. IT pros looking for advice on how to get hired. U.S. military vets-some of whom have worked with cutting edge tech while enlisted—have a higher unemployment rate than the general population. What is wrong with this picture?

And now there are efforts to increase the cap on H-1B visas so companies can attract the "best and brightest people in the world." (If you squint really hard, you'll be able to read the rest of that sentence which is "...for less money than they have to pay U.S. workers."

And, really, that's the real deal isn't it? But if you say anything publicly about this, then you're "anti-India," or something along those lines. Seems to me I'm "pro-India" if I'm against hiring Indian folks to do work for a fraction of the cost we'd pay U.S. workers.

What possible reason could anyone make this assertion? Well, try reading this report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that says, although H-1B workers are supposed to be paid "prevailing wages," that rule is rarely enforced and that oversight is "cursory."

An excellent article by Martin Kaste for NPR's All Tech Considered, talks about what many believe is possibly really behind all the kumbayah all-hands-across-the-water, increase-the-cap movements: The top ten recipients in the last fiscal year of H-1B visas were all offshore-outsourcers. Kaste quotes Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology:

"They got 40,000 of the 85,000 visas - which is astonishing."

From the article:

"For the past decade, he's [Hira] been studying how consulting firms use temporary work visas to help American companies cut costs. He says they use the visas to supply cheaper workers here, but also to smooth the transfer of American jobs to information-technology centers overseas."

If you're a U.S. tech worker, it's worth your time-and in your best interest—to check out the report and the article by Kaste.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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