First off, if you want to cherry pick data to support your point of view, "Most See Visa Program as Severely Flawed" is a good place to start. They provide three of four sets of conflicting statistics on wages for programmers and engineers, each gotten by a group wishing to advance their own immigration or business agenda.
What the article missed, though was the pure numbers involved in the fields, and why we issue the visas in the first place. Engineering is a good place to look at that information, because it's a field the US is rapidly falling behind Asia in.
Right now, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1.4 million filled engineering jobs in the US. In 2005 colleges and universities here only graduated 60,000 engineers according to data from the University of Pittsburgh. That number is down from 75,000 in 1985, and is where the problem occurs.
Again, using BLS numbers, overall engineering jobs in the US are expected to grow faster than average over the next 10 years, that comes out to be between 1.8 and 2.6% growth each year. If growth were the only worry, a 4.2% graduation rate to current jobs would cause a depressed market.
However, growth isn't the only consideration when looking at those numbers, attrition is the other. In 2004 NASA had 3 times as many engineers over 60 as it does under 30, and expected 19,000 of them to retire by 2009.
What that means is that job growth (figuring 2%), and the attrition of one federal agency will eat up over half of all graduates each year. Consider that companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing are all in the same situation, it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out we aren't graduating enough engineers to fill the jobs.
That's where the visa programs come into play. Right now there are a total of 65,000 H-1B slots available each year, usually by December every one of them has a request in for it. H-1B's though aren't just for engineers, they are for other "professional" jobs such as doctors, nurses, etc. (I pointed this out in this earlier article.) So the H-1B program probably still isn't bringing in enough engineers to fill the openings.
For working engineers it's a good thing, since it keeps wages higher than normal because of competition for jobs. My current employer pays a $3,000 bonus to any employee who refers a qualified engineer who gets hired, because of that competition. It's also good for new graduates, who can expect a higher wage than they'd get if there wasn't as much competition.
What about the companies that employ the engineers? At some point a cost benefit analysis will probably show that some of their work can be sent out of the US and done enough cheaper to start making that option more attractive. Certain fields won't be able to because of government contracts, etc. but many can and already are.
In the long run, limiting the numbers of workers that can be imported in certain fields may end up being a (much) bigger detractor to the economy than actually bringing in enough (legally) to do the jobs. Remember, workers under any of the current visa programs pay all US taxes, and for the H-1B people who are here for up to 6 years, they are probably spending more of their money in US than the folks on seasonal visas.
More on the immigration debate here.
Tracked back at Blue Star Chronicles and Don Surber.
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