Tag Archives: international workers

It’s a Lose-Lose

We all know about “win-win” situations. My husband recently pointed me to an article that epitomizes its opposite: a true “lose-lose.”

Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other silicon valley companies are heavily lobbying Congress to expand visas for foreign tech workers.

Over the objections of labour groups, these companies and their allies, including banks, IBM, Pfizer, and General Electric, have persuaded the US Senate to increase the yearly H-1B visas from 65,000 to 110,000, and as high as 300,000 under certain conditions. Foreign workers trained in science, technology and engineering are preferred to their US counterparts because, in the words of economist Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, they are indentured “people who could not switch employers to improve their wages or working conditions…. Too many are paid at wages below the average for their occupation and location: over half of all H-1B guest workers [there are already 500,000 such workers] are certified for wages in the bottom quarter of the wage scale”.

Of course, bringing more workers from abroad reduces the opportunities available to America’s young scientists and engineers, many of whom, according to the article, are ” trying to find jobs commensurate with their skills.” Right now, out of the nine million Americans who have degrees in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field, only three million have a job in their speciality.

Narrowing the job market for young Americans is one “lose.” The other is the brain drain on the countries from which we are importing talent.

 While the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is stressing the need for developing countries to build up their “human capital”, back in the US, the corporate powers-that-be and their political allies are undermining this tenet of US foreign economic policy.

If “human capital” means anything in the poorer areas of Africa, South America and Asia, it means civil engineers, scientists, physicians, nurses, computer and communications specialists, logistical experts, architects and entrepreneurs. They all are in short supply in these regions that have already lost so many skilled people to the West.

So let me see if I have this right: Congress has acted to reduce the options available to American young people at the same time government agencies have been encouraging them to major in STEM disciplines, in order to steal needed human capital from poor countries that desperately need to keep that talent.

In a perfect world–at least my perfect world–a more equal global economy would be characterized by open borders like those in the EU, and young people would be free to take their talents wherever they wanted. We don’t have that world, however, and this cynical policy sure won’t usher it in.

Do any of the people we elect to Congress think about what they’re doing?