Guest workers in tech because of a dearth of qualified candidates? Think again

Guest workers in tech because of a dearth of qualified candidates? Think again

Summary: Computer engineers aren't hard to find, according to a new report from Bright Media.

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bright-guestworkers-2013-chart02
Chart courtesy Bright

The U.S. technology industry argues that it must import guest workers from other countries because there is a lack of qualified people to fill computer engineering jobs.

A new report from Bright, a job placement company in San Francisco, suggests otherwise.

Technology companies have long argued on Capitol Hill that they should be allowed to increase the number of temporary H1-B visas because there aren't enough qualified Americans available. Critics such as labor groups argue that the practice depresses wages.

According to Bright, the reality is more complicated. According to its analysis of three million résumés of job seekers in the U.S., Bright says that certain kinds of engineers (e.g. application developers) are indeed in short supply—but other kinds (financial analysts, electrical engineers) are widely available. Yet companies request temporary visas for both kinds of occuptations.

For every temporary visa granted for a legitimately hard-to-find-in-the-U.S. computer systems analyst, there is another visa granted for a not-so-hard-to-find programmer or management analyst.

The vast majority of temporary visas granted are for computer- and mathematics-related occupations. The majority of requests for them come from outsourcing firms "uninterested in domestic candidates," Bright said.

bright-guestworkers-2013-chart01
Chart courtesy Bright

The New York Times sums up the dissonance nicely:

Many economists take issue with the industry’s argument, too. One side points out that wages have not gone up across the board for engineers, suggesting that there is no stark labor shortage. [...]

"We're Silicon Valley people, we just assumed the shortage was true," Mr. Goodman said. "It turns out there is a little Silicon Valley groupthink going on about this, though it’s not comfortable to say that."

This finding doesn't mean those H1-B visas are being granted in vain, however; this analysis doesn't cover whether the granting of additional visas for foreign workers has a positive or negative effect on the overall economy. But it does shoot a few holes in long-held industry assumptions.

Topics: Outsourcing, IT Employment

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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7 comments
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  • Hiring more American workers!

    The US economic policies favor labor market commoditization. The key reason for the existence of the temporary worker H visa is not the assumed lack of suitable American high tech workers. It is actually the intended disinflation in high tech wages that the labor market will go through if one adds high tech workers. Remove these workers and wages will rise.

    So the study is biased in that it did not remove this variable - temp workers from other countries in studying the market. Removing the workers in a hypothetical setting will indeed show that wages will rise. And this confirms the lack of supply causing higher prices theory of economists.

    What is abhorrent is the asking for more temporary visas when the ones that exist already deflate the wages in the market.
    calahan
  • tech companies are asking for more visas

    not because they want to lower the wages, although without any doubt they would love to, but simply because there is not enough skilled people.

    ZDNet, for example, is could use one to fix their spam filter that shoots down legitimate posts while automated spam goes through just fine
    vpupkin
    • I have witnessed several layoffs over the last 5 years and

      software engineers who a large chunk of them. Big companies like hp, ms, etc. and it was the American citizens who were being laid off while the h1bs were retained. Just sayin...
      Johnny Vegas
      • I call that BS. You are not the only one who witnessed several layoffs...

        no manager in his/her right mind would specifically target a specific group of people, especially American citizens. if if only for the fear for his career, which would end abruptly the moment one of the laid off citizens decided to sue for discrimination

        second, most h1b workers stay on their h1b visa for a couple of years. then they receive work permit, followed by green card and eventually most of them become us citizens. so it becomes kind of hard to differentiate. unless of course you definition of h1b includes permanent residents and naturalized citizens as well.

        and finally, h1b workers don't cost their employers any less and often hiring them is more expensive than hiring locals
        vpupkin
  • Cheap labor is the only motivation

    For the handful of jobs we posted in 2012, we had literally hundreds of resumes. Very many qualified or near-qualified people applied, but in the end management went with "fly-in" contractors from India on H1B visas. Do they get paid equivalent wages? I doubt it. Do they work 12 hours a day? Yes. Do they get healthcare, vacation, or other benefits? No.

    It's all about money, no concern for society, national economy, or public good. Just dollars.
    terry flores
  • Do not hire the scabs

    I do not hire the H-1b scabs. There are American candidates. By hiring and promoting the citizens of our enemy states, we assist those states (China, India) in undermining our economy. China engages in sabotage against our companies and government all the time, and this partially with trained H-1B agents.
    GeorgePTyrebyter
  • First Manufacturing outsource, the new trend is to replace Engineers

    The new trends in Silicon Valley and California to replace experience engineers and professional technicians with H1B visa guest workers. Great solution in short term but there is no innovation and breakthrough. Most of the products are end up in abortion.
    As a ronins, we should get together and make a nice products to drive these incumbents to ground.
    Bright is correct with their research.
    Netteligent