Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Illusory STEM Shortage

As you may know, the Republicans are searching for some way to cave to Democrats' demands for "immigration reform" without alienating the Republican base. They think that they have found a way through H1B visas. The Washington Times reported on May 8, 2014:
Republican Rep. Raul Labrador on Thursday offered a potential immigration deal to the White House, saying the GOP would agree to loosen penalties on illegal immigrants if President Obama would agree to increase visas for foreigners who work in high-tech fields. 
Mr. Labrador suggested dropping the penalty period that bars illegal immigrants from reapplying to enter the U.S. legally after being deported, a period that now lasts for between three and 10 years, depending on how long they had first remained in the country illegally.
The immigration debate has put the Republican politicians in a tight spot. Most conservatives are opposed to amnesty programs because of the downward pressure it will put on wages and increased costs of public services. However, amnesty is favored by big business and farmers because they want the cheaper labor. Thus, the Republican politicians must choose between money or carrying out the will of those they allegedly represent. An agreement on H1B visas for skilled workers is a way that these politicians believe that can have their cake and eat it too.

However, this is based on an assumption that there is a shortage of high tech workers. That assumption is not supported. Breitbart reports:
The myth that there are such widespread labor shortages in the high-tech industry has been debunked in numerous studies, but Republicans and Democrats have continued to, as the scholars noted, perpetuate it without being challenged on their specious claims.
 The article goes on:
Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who has worked on these issues for more than a decade, said on the conference call that the H-1B visas that are filling the supposed "gaps" are "doing more harm than good" to the U.S. science and engineering workforce.

He noted that the majority of the H-1B visas are being used for "cheaper workers" from abroad and mentioned that offshoring firms used 50% of the cap last year to further their business model of bringing in "lower-cost H-1B workers to replace American workers." Salzman said that even after American software engineers train their replacements, they cannot speak out about their experiences for fear of being blackballed or having to forfeit their severance payments.
Hira said that the H-1B program has run amok because "Congress sets the wage floors way too low" and "far below the market wages for American workers" while not placing any "requirement to look for or recruit American workers first, so there is no displacement of American workers." 
"As a result, you are basically inducing companies to game the system to bring foreign workers to undercut American workers," Hira noted. "Instead of complimenting the U.S. workers as it should, it's substituting for the U.S. workforce and taking away future opportunities by shifting the work overseas." 
Salzman said that in this arrangement, the employer has nearly total control of the "indentured" H1-B workers because they hold their work permits.

Matloff agreed, saying that figuratively "handcuffing" foreign workers is even "more important than saving on wages" because employers can "prevent foreign workers from leaving" in the middle of projects, unlike with American workers.
Other researchers have noted that this is not new:
This trend, though, is nothing new, according to Teitelbaum, the Harvard Law School research associate who has discovered that dating back to World War II, there have been five cycles in which alarms were sounded about shortages in the STEM fields that forced the government to respond by increasing the flow of high-tech workers through more education or visas.

What immediately followed, Teitelbaum said, were periods of busts that put workers out of work and discouraged prospective students from going into the those industries, which would lead to another "shortage" cycle. Matloff said there are some indications that students in the STEM fields, even graduates in Silicon Valley, are responding negatively when faced with bleak job prospects in the high-tech industry after they were assured that STEM degrees would secure them employment. Matloff noted that other students may "eventually see that this is not a good career path" and, consistent with Teitelbaum's findings, discourage others from pursuing STEM degrees and potentially sowing the seeds for a sixth cycle of boom and bust.
See also this article at Right Side News.

In other words, like everything else concerning amnesty, it is a lie designed to cover the fact that the purpose of allowing increased immigration is intended to drive down wages and, in the case if H1B visas, essentially allow a form of indentured servitude.

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