July 23, 2013

Giant study proves Zuckerberg wrong

From the NYT
Although certain kinds of engineers are in short supply in the United States, plenty of potential candidates exist for thousands of positions for which companies want to import guest workers, according to an analysis of three million résumés of job seekers in the United States. 
The numbers, prepared by a company called Bright, which collects résumés and uses big data tools to connect job seekers with openings, enter a contentious debate over whether tech companies should be allowed to expand their rolls of guest workers. In lobbying Congress for more of these temporary visas, called H-1B visas, the technology industry argues there are not enough qualified Americans. Its critics, including labor groups, say bringing in guest workers is a way to depress wages in the industry. 
Many economists take issue with the industry’s argument, too.

To be precise, economics takes issue with the industry's argument. In contrast, economists, on average, have been shamefully reticent about pointing out that the Silicon Valley billionaires are denying the basic findings of economics (e.g., supply and demand) to add to their billions. Why? Maybe they figure if they are nice to the billionaires, the billionaires might be nice to them.
... “I didn’t expect this result,” said Steve Goodman, Bright’s chief executive.
Bright is based in San Francisco, and it makes money in part by placing qualified candidates with recruiters and, according to Mr. Goodman, employs workers using H-1B visas. “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.” 
For a few job categories, like computer systems analysts, there are relatively few “good fits” among American applicants, Bright found. Computer systems analyst jobs, considered relatively low-skilled in the tech world, had four openings for every American candidate. For others, like high-skilled computer programmers, there were more than enough potential candidates in the United States, the company found. 
Bright’s study is unlikely to end the debate, partly because it rests on the company’s proprietary algorithm to determine who is a “good fit” for a particular job opening. Its algorithm uses a range of criteria, including work experience and education, but also work descriptions that indicated a high likelihood of other skills.  
For the study, Bright looked at the job categories for which firms applied for H-1B visas, and then, looked at résumés of job seekers in the United States whose résumés matched those same categories. 
Giovanni Peri, an economist at University of California, Davis, said that the Bright study was insufficient to determine whether there was a need for foreign engineers.

Hey, Giovanni, didn't you prove that in 2007, immigration was wonderful for California workers? Has anything happened economically in California since 2007? Seems like I read about something in the papers.
“It is the difference between job vacancies (demand) and unemployed with right qualifications (supply) that provides a measure of the excess (or not) of demand,” he said. “Knowing only the number of unemployed with right qualifications does not do it.” 
The Senate immigration bill, passed last month, nearly doubles the number of H-1B visas that companies can seek every year.
... Bright’s analysis suggests a hierarchy in the industry that mirrors what has long been said about jobs like low-skilled agricultural or restaurant work: Americans could do these jobs, but are unlikely to accept the pay or conditions. As a result, the jobs are taken by immigrants. 
The age of workers, which the study did not look at, may also play a role. Experienced American workers tend to be older in an industry that prizes youth. 
A study conducted by a Seattle-based company called Payscale found that among 32 technology companies surveyed, only six had a work force with a median age over 35. At Monster, the job search portal, the median age was 30; at Google, 29; and at Facebook, 28. The median age of American workers over all is 42.3 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Another reason for a youth bias is the cost of health insurance, which is immense these days. Peter Schaeffer's rough estimate is that health care (private and public) costs a staggering $12 per hour worked in the United States.

Yet, what do you think health insurance costs per worker at Facebook compared to, say, at General Electric? Not much, right? It's one reason you can get so Zuckerberg Rich in tech -- you don't have to pay much for your employees' health insurance. Obviously, that's not the only reason, but it's pretty weird that ultra-rich companies like Facebook bear so little of the burden of health care.

But, in my experience, people tend to get old. So, shoving the costs of health care onto somebody else, while good for Mark Zuckerberg's net worth, is just a zero sum game, one that the tech billionaires are winning, which means that somebody else (i.e., you) are losing.
... Later that day, Bright was having a party, partly to attract new talent, he said, including foreign programmers here on H-1B visas.

Bright's report is here.

45 comments:

Wankers Gawking at Vox said...

The numbers, prepared by a company called Bright, which collects résumés and uses big data tools to connect job seekers with openings,

Resumes are often padded.

I have been interviewing, and not finding many good people.

I am also aware that some people lie like crazy about their abilities and think they can figure it out on the job. They rarely do.

Anonymous said...

"Computer systems analyst jobs, considered relatively low-skilled in the tech world, had four openings for every American candidate. For others, like high-skilled computer programmers, there were more than enough potential candidates in the United States, the company found."

But what does this mean? If a "low-skilled job" has no good fits, and a "high-skilled job" has more than enough candidates, is the high-skilled job really high-skilled and the low really low?

Anonymous said...

Oh great, that jackass from Vox Pololi is starting to comment here.

Corvin S. Kettle said...

I am an IT worker (Java and Asp.Net) and my salary is barely bigger than it was in the year 2000. Meanwhile, my benefits have progressively gotten worse over time. I have alot more skills than I did in 2000.

Auntie Analogue said...

Wankers Gawking at Vox posted:


"Resumes are often padded."

Then foreigners seeking H-1B visas also pad their resumés. Or hadn't you heard of the various ways in which schemning foreigners and "U.S." employers have been scamming the H-1B and other visa programs?


"I have been interviewing, and not finding many good people."

There's a difference betwen "not finding many" and not finding enough. Methinks the supply of U.S. citizens qualified for the positions you seek to fill is more than sufficient.


"I am also aware that some people lie like crazy about their abilities and think they can figure it out on the job. They rarely do."

Then this is true also of foreigners who come here and take jobs Americans should have, and who depress wages for Americans.


In the article there's this: "For a few job categories, like computer systems analysts, there are relatively few 'good fits' among American applicants, Bright found."

Has no on considered that if our "American" colleges shut out foreign students and instead gave admission priority to U.S. citizen applicants, the number of Americans who are "good fits" would rise to meet demand?

Anonymous said...

Resumes are often padded.

I have been interviewing, and not finding many good people.

I am also aware that some people lie like crazy about their abilities and think they can figure it out on the job. They rarely do.


Ok, Wankers. You just said that 3 million US resumes are all liars and that the only way we can fill the bulk of these tech jobs is to import foreigners.

Something to consider: What makes you 100% certain that foreigners, desperately wanting that H1 visa, don't "pad" their resume a tad? They have a lot to lose if they don't get the visa. What makes any of us so sure that all the foreign born tech workers are the best qualified workers in the tech industry, rather than the educated US tech worker.

Why is this incessant bias vs US born workers. Are we all really that mediocre and inferior to India and China?

COME ON!

Anonymous said...

Giovanni Peri, an economist at University of California, Davis, said that the Bright study was insufficient to determine whether there was a need for foreign engineers.


You've gptta love the way all these tenured academics (that is, people on good old fashioned guild protected jobs) constantly think it's a swell idea for the rest of us to have to compete for work with the population of the entire planet.

Anonymous said...

I have been interviewing, and not finding many good people


Have you considered the possibility that the market is sending you a signal, telling you that you need to offer more money? I've been looking for and not finding good jobs, but you don't see me arguing that the government needs to help me get what I want. It's only the "libertarian" employers who seek government assistance in enriching themselves.

Anonymous said...

Get them in young and cheap.

Get rid of them when they have kids to support.

Unconstrained capitalism is totally blind.

Anonymous said...

For a few job categories, like computer systems analysts, there are relatively few “good fits” among American applicants, Bright found. Computer systems analyst jobs, considered relatively low-skilled in the tech world, had four openings for every American candidate. For others, like high-skilled computer programmers, there were more than enough potential candidates in the United States, the company found.

Presumably, if the higher skilled programmers, of which there are apparently plenty, were getting hired more and paid better, then there'd be a larger supply of the lower skilled computer analyst job applicants from younger people looking to get into the tech industry and aspiring to the better paying, higher skilled jobs as they get older.

Messina said...

Let's not pretend, Steve, that Bright is the final word on this. We don't know how they did there study and we don't know if they can be trusted. This is a complicated subject, the economy is complicated, I'm not advocating a 'head in the sand' blind approach, but stop pretending that this settles it. It's a contrarily point of view against a wealth of data that contradicts IT.

Wankers Gawking at Vox said...

Then foreigners seeking H-1B visas also pad their resumés. Or hadn't you heard of the various ways in which schemning foreigners and "U.S." employers have been scamming the H-1B and other visa programs?

No argument from me.

I was simply responding to the fact that they used resumes.

And I have interviewed lots of Indians and they have mostly fallen short. However, there are also good Indians.

eah said...

...and not finding many good people.

How sad for you. And your company. So I guess the only way to save the situation is to hire an Indian peon.

But it just might be that were I to interview with you, I may also conclude you would not be a 'good person' to work for, and exit the interview posthaste by asking to use the bathroom.

I have also been -- many times -- an interviewer or an interviewee (not at the same time, mind you; note the use of "or"). And in my experience there are two basic kinds of interviewers: those who look for reasons to hire you, ie they make an effort to assess the quality of your 'human capital', and the other kind, ie those who are very obviously looking for reasons not to hire you. You are probably the latter. Final words to you: fuck off.

I observed twenty years ago that the H-1B was primarily a vehicle for age discrimination on a massive, anonymous scale. I used to write letters to the editor, and have email dialogues with MSM propagandists about that. Now I think this aspect is more widely known. But in any public debate about expanding employment visas it should be hammered even harder.

Veracitor said...

Wow, there are ten times as many H1-B's wanted in computing as any other field. I will guess that is because in recent years computing has been the field with the most demand for workers, ergo the field (other than government) in which ordinary workers can earn the most, ergo th field in which management most resents the workers' ability to leave if mistreated, therefore the field in which managers most want to import indentured servants to replace uppity workers.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that most people have some idea of what people would (or "should", if you like) be earning in a labour market. The fact that it's so often catastrophically wrong never seems to impinge. It's class and race, not economics - look at the frothing of the mouth at the fact that top footballers earn X, and teachers/nurses/whatever earn Y.

So it doesn't bother them that, say, construction labourers or agricultural workers are earning peanuts because, hey, that's what some unedumacated nobody would be earning, right? What do those uppity blacks/poor whites think they're doing, expecting enough to live on?

(I cannot stress enough how galling it is for many people to see, say unskilled labour earning good wages. Even for those who see it as a good thing, it's more of a "gift" than a reflection of the worth of their work. Never seems to occur to anyone that they'd do well in a genuinely free market where companies couldn't bypass them and import subsidised workers. Why else would the little turds be so eager to get the cheap labour in the first place?)

Something similar works with the upper end of skill levels. People are looking at the wages and benefits - allegedly, but let's assume it's true for the moment - being offered and thinking that that's more than enough, and what kind of greedy tosser wouldn't be happy to work for that? Never mind that if they won't, then that's the free market telling employers to up their wages.

Nope - the problem has to be with the worker drones, getting all uppity and old. I suspect there's a level of resentment that someone out there could expect even higher wages, especially when those lower down the feeding chain are struggling so much and no one is standing up for *them*, at least not to the same extent.

Not to mention the fact that a lot of people don't understand the maths behind it. Much as I respect, say, Norm Matloff, his maths is too complicated for most people. Stop trying to statistically prove the way companies want to enact age discrimination, and start pointing out that if they genuinely can't get workers, then that's the free market telling them to (1) up their wages, (2) be more efficient so they need fewer workers or (3) go out of business.

iraqwarwrong said...

"Computer systems analyst jobs, considered relatively low-skilled in the tech world, had four openings for every American candidate. For others, like high-skilled computer programmers, there were more than enough potential candidates in the United States, the company found. "

Two things, 1. the low-skilled roles could be filled by higher-skilled Americans then - at the right price. Companies just don't want to pay that price.

2. Job-matching software is stupid-picky IMHO (omit a keyword and you're 'not qualified'), made for lazy/ignorant HR departments. In reality it's nonsense to premise job-matching on the idea that a candidate must necessarily have and list perfect knowledge and X years' experience in computer languages #1, 2, ..., N. If this study found plenty of American matches *even under such retardedly strict criteria* it must be a pretty strong/robust finding.

anony-mouse said...

Your argument about health care costs is a good argument for Obamacare and Government single-payer.

Anonymous said...

Long live capitalism! Down with socialism!

As capitalistic country, you should not care for the losers.

Beyond Anon said...

I think that Steve has failed to think this through, although I agree that Billionaires want to keep running faster than the rest of us.

The first thing to realize, I believe, is that the economy has changed in terms of the IQ requirements of the workforce.

In the old days when the US was a manufacturing powerhouse, because most males have some mechanical aptitude, a wide range of males could be trained to perform adequately to well in manufacturing.

However, things have changed in two ways:

1. Manufacturing has fragmented into heavy manufacturing, some of which is still done in the US, and fine/electronic manufacturing. Women have an advantage in fine/electronic manufacturing because of their better fine motor skills.

2. The whole information/computer segment has arisen. The average IQ demands of this industry are greater than those in manufacturing.

Engineering employees in companies like Microsoft and Facebook need, I claim, an IQ greater than 2 SDs above the white mean, and the top performers will have IQs 3 SDs above the mean. Even QA personnel need at least one SD above the mean.

However, IQ is not enough. They also need perseverance.

You cannot train a 1SD above the mean IQ person to produce like a 2SD above the mean IQ person or a three SD above the mean IQ person. They just do not understand the stuff. They just do not see the patterns or understand the need to see patterns.

I would suggest that with only about 220M (or maybe less) whites in the US, the number of people available to the high tech companies with IQs in the right range is insufficient.

Of course, the numbers might prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Resumes are often padded." - one of the things about that whole supply and demand thing, is that the cost to supply something goes up when it is in demand.

Hunsdon said...

anonymouse said: Your argument about health care costs is a good argument for Obamacare and Government single-payer.

Hunsdon said: Which one? Government single payer or the giveaway to the insurance industry known as Obamacare? (For the record, I probably support a form of state paid health care as the base line, with private plans in excess . . . but the devil is in the details.)

Anonymous said...

This isn't even the fundamental issue. The fundamental issue is this:a labor scarcity should never be used as an excuse to race-replace the Native Born White American Majority. That's all there is to it.

Labor scarcities are wonderfull things. Labor scarcities drive up the real wage for millions of Native Born White American Workers. This can never be a bad thing..unless you are Alan Greenspan who testifying before Congress a few years back was terrifed that a severe labor scarcity would drive up the real wage and cause inflation!!! Of course, this is a bold-face lie. Does Mark Zuckerberg's very high hourly real wage cause inflation? And unless you are Noam Chomsky...very nice summer home on martha's vineyard... who is more than willing to drive the real wage of millions of Native Born White Americans into the wage slave realm via the importation of millions of nonwhite scab workers so that Native Born White Americans can be reduced to violently persecuted racial minority within the borders of America.

The main point:don't engage in a debate about whether or not there is a labor surplus,for in doing so, you open the window wide to an economic case legitimizing race-replacing the Native Born White American Majority.

Something..the kind of thing..that you find intersting-here it goes:

Went up to Penn State May 4 for a graduation. The post-graduation Sorority-Animal House Party for the young women graduates and family was brutal..so I went for an evening walk around downtown College Park. The University, in a effort to clean up its Pedaphile U image has banners hanging down from street lights of great achievements of the faculty and students. Good dose of minority identity politics majors-someting for the community...march against racism!! I had enough of the nonesense..took a quick look at the last banner hanging up of a black Penn State football Player..didn't bother reading it. When I got home I went to the Penn State Football website to look at the 20013 schedule. A photo of a black Penn State player was on the web site...same photo on the banner hanging off a street light down town.His name is John Urschell starting right guard for Penn State...and author of a 40 page paper in a leading astrophysics journal on astroid orbits..a topolical dynamics paper..he has also published a paper in graph theory and has completed a masters thesis calculating option prices. Go google who his father is...John Urschell senior. I thought this would be a story you would be interested in.

Bill Blizzard and his Men

Hunsdon said...

Anonydroid at 7:44 AM said: As capitalistic country, you should not care for the losers.

Hunsdon said: There are no capitalistic (or even capitalist) countries, there are only capitalistic economies. Homo Economicus is as much of a mirage and fraud as Homo Sovieticus was.

pat said...

As it happens I know something about these issues.

I was a independent commission only High Tech recruiter working Silicon Valley in the height of the Internet boom. I later became the manager of a team of H-1B Visa programmers from Russia and Ukraine. I had also been an IT manager in a couple local government agencies.

I have hired and fired a lot of programmers and have known a lot of systems analysts.

This guy's take on these issue is BS based on ignorance.

First of all, it matters what kind of IT organization you are talking about. In the old days you started as a junior programmer checking someone else's code - usually COBOL. Then you advanced to being a programmer and then next a systems analyst.

That's the way it used to be but it hasn't been that way for a long time except in textbooks and government. When I was consumer of data processing services as a manager in government, my account was serviced by a couple programmers and a systems analyst. The analyst was suppose to analyze the problem and direct the coders to write the code.

But in a mature IT bureaucracy it didn't work that way. The systems analysts had been promoted because of their social and language skills. Typically they had been lousy programmers and had been sent upstairs to be systems analysts. The government programmers were typically inferior coders too. The agencies would have to hire real programmers from Arthur Andersen or ETS for any real work that required original code that actually worked.

But it was definitely true that the least technically capable people in those organizations were the over-paid and under- worked 'systems analysts'.

And that why most modern firms had gotten rid of the systems analst classification long ago. The original paradigm was that an experience person (the systems analyst) would get a problem from a regular manager in the organization and the systems analyst would figure out the data resources needed in consultation with the Data Base Administrator and then write up a requirements analysis and assign one or more programmers to do the actual coding. But relational DBMSes made the data requirements so much easier and more rational that the DBA position became less powerful and it wielded less arbitrary say-so.

Languages also changed. COBOL was English like but ALGOL descended languages and object oriented languages incorporated the algorithm's logic in the code and therefore needed less translation.

Soon the responsibilities and the expectations of programmers became larger at least outside of legacy COBOL shops. When I hired "software engineers' I always asked them to define Third Normal Form (a database question) and I looked for guys who could talk directly to end users. These were not skills that were expected of programmers back when companies employed systems analysts. The main responsibility of systems analysts in government was to keep end users from ever getting to talk with the guy who actually wrote the code.

Systems Analysts were middle men and you know what happens to middle men with automation.

Albertosaurus

David said...

America didn't want me, so I left. It can get along just fine without me, but I needed to live. Maybe some others here might consider admitting to themselves that this country has dumped them for good. Why stay?

Anonymous said...

Computer systems analysts aren't engineers. Engineers - Electrical, Mechanical, Chemical, Civil, etc. - are those who have passed the PE exam.
I'll give you tech workers, but they aren't engineers.

sykes.1 said...

I retired from Ohio State in 2007 after teaching civil engineering for 37 years, there and elsewhere.

It has long been common knowledge dating back to the 1950s that the US graduates more BS engineers than it needs and that many BS engineers go on to work in non engineering jobs. Many of these are related to technical sales, and a BS engineering degree is good preparation for other fields like medicine and law and finance.

The excess production is truly large in MS and PhD engineering degrees where a very large majority of the students are foreigners, almost all Asian. These students nowadays go home, although a few get the H-1B visa and stay. One provision of the immigration bill is that all foreign recipients of MS and PhD degrees will automatically get the H-1B visa. This bill (which likely won't be enacted) would crush engineering salaries.

It is also the most anti-black legislation since the slave laws of the Antebellum South. A very large majority of the immigrants would be uneducated, unskilled Mexicans who would compete with low income blacks for jobs and housing. LA is the canary in the mine--Mexicans displace blacks.

Of course, Ron Unz' recent blog concludes that the replacement of blacks by Mexicans is what the elites want.

Jim Bowery said...

Click through and vote for
my submission of the NYT story to slashdot. Slashdot is the original STEM blog explicitly for US STEM workers. The original owner sold out. The editorial policy has taken a decidedly Zuckerbergesque turn -- the former emphasis on "This is for US programmers!" now all but silenced. One can still hear the dying screams of the folks who built the Internet there but they are increasingly be drowned out by hoards of "They took ur jubezez!!!" type comments from the new colonial masters of Silicon Valley and, increasingly, the entire Fortune 1000 information technology infrastructure of the US.

ben tillman said...

This is a complicated subject, the economy is complicated, I'm not advocating a 'head in the sand' blind approach, but stop pretending that this settles it. It's a contrarily point of view against a wealth of data that contradicts IT.

It's impossible for any data to contradict it.

ben tillman said...

Wow, there are ten times as many H1-B's wanted in computing as any other field. I will guess that is because in recent years computing has been the field with the most demand for workers, ergo the field (other than government) in which ordinary workers can earn the most, ergo th field in which management most resents the workers' ability to leave if mistreated, therefore the field in which managers most want to import indentured servants to replace uppity workers.

Yep, this is similar to Steve's point about boomtowns.

Phoenician said...

You cannot train a 1SD above the mean IQ person to produce like a 2SD above the mean IQ person or a three SD above the mean IQ person. They just do not understand the stuff. They just do not see the patterns or understand the need to see patterns.

Well, I am not sure of that, especially if you have smart people coming up with decision charts for them.

However, when I look around at the office where I work in Silicon Valley, it looks like the min IQ is around 115, so the average must be around 125 or 130.

Back when manufacturing was more important, I guess they could have gotten away with an average around 105.

Anonymous said...

If you loved the H1-B, check out the EB-5. Let's just own up that it's all about a few people raking in the money and nothing else much matters. Economically optimizing a pretty short time-horizon.

"Virginia’s Fears of a ‘Visa-for-Sale Scheme’":

"...two high-ranking officials actually suspected that the company’s real aim was to make money by selling U.S. residency visas to wealthy foreigners.

... Not only based on (lack of) management expertise, (lack of) market preparation, etc. but also still can’t get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme...

...The Regional Centers are not allowed to sell the U.S. visas, they are allowed to point out that investment in their projects may qualify a foreign citizen for a residence visa, and they may appear to suggest that one directly leads to the other. ..."

David Davenport said...

Wow, there are ten times as many H1-B's wanted in computing as any other field. I will guess that is because in recent years computing has been the field with the most demand for workers, ergo the field (other than government) in which ordinary workers can earn the most

Then why has the pay for American information tech. workers been been on a stagnant plateau for the lasty twenty years or so? And why are so many American IT workers gone from that vocational field by age forty?

2. Job-matching software is stupid-picky IMHO (omit a keyword and you're 'not qualified'), made for lazy/ignorant HR departments. In reality it's nonsense to premise job-matching on the idea that a candidate must necessarily have and list perfect knowledge and X years' experience in computer languages #1, 2, ..., N. If this study found plenty of American matches *even under such retardedly strict criteria* it must be a pretty strong/robust finding.

The idea is to find no qualified American workers. Meanwhile, bring in less qualified H1-B's and some crony hires via a Human Resources Dept. back door.

Engineering employees in companies like Microsoft and Facebook need, I claim, an IQ greater than 2 SDs above the white mean, and the top performers will have IQs 3 SDs above the mean ...

In order for MSFT to create masterpieces such as Windows Vista or Windows 8 or Windows cell phones or Windows RT on the Microsofty Surface tablet?

Microsoft Corp. is a good argument against the validity of good grades from supposedly good U.'s.

And what techno. breakthrough has Facebook produced?

//////////


Anonymous said...
Long live capitalism! Down with socialism!

As capitalistic country, you should not care for the losers.


Anon., you need to improve your iSteve posting game, even if you're no more than fourteen years old. Your little bit of nothing comments are stinking up the place.

If socialism creates more good jobs than capitalism, then why isn't the European Union doing better?

Anonymous said...

Apple's ex-CEO, John Sculley, said some interesting things recently.

"Ex-Apple CEO: Innovation doesn't live on democratic leadership", ZDnet, Eileen Yu, July 24, 2013.

"... he pointed to a major limiting factor in Asia's top-down model where the education system looks for perfection. Graduates of universities from Asian culture tended to be the best students in class, but the leaders of high-tech companies often were college dropouts or were not very successful students, he noted.

"But they are motivated by the desire to have a passion about changing the rules. While Asians played by the rules, entrepreneurs of the West were about breaking the rules," he added. "It's a cultural issue, and clearly not a talent issue.""


I wonder how he knows for sure that it's a cultural issue. These days I see that as a red flag word. Culture shapes people, people never shape culture?

old techie said...

> I have been interviewing, and not finding many good people

Improve your technology; no good programmer wants to work with several-year-old tech.

Cail Corishev said...

I almost missed this article, thanks to The Old Reader being down this week.

"For a few job categories, like computer systems analysts, there are relatively few “good fits” among American applicants, Bright found. Computer systems analyst jobs, considered relatively low-skilled in the tech world, had four openings for every American candidate. For others, like high-skilled computer programmers, there were more than enough potential candidates in the United States, the company found."

Gosh, that sounds like exactly what I've been saying every time this topic comes up, and I didn't even need to do a study; I just had to, you know, look around. There's no shortage of the high-tech workers they claim to need, who will supposedly come in and pay lots of taxes and boost our economy. The shortage is in the low-skill stuff that anyone could be trained to do in a matter of weeks, but Americans have stopped applying because A) they've already suppressed the wages with foreign labor enough that you might as well go work at McDonald's where you'll at least get some free fries once in a while, and B) they've staffed HR with enough foreigners that there might as well be an "Americans Need Not Apply" sign on the wall.

I know the horse is dead, but I'm going to keep beating it until it stops getting up: this isn't about a talent shortage, and it isn't about finding foreign diamonds in the rough. It's about lowering labor cost -- wages and benefits -- pure and simple. (And race replacement for some of the people behind it, but for most of the CEOs, it's about the bottom line.) Nothing else. They could hire Americans who can pass a basic typing and computer aptitude test (the USPS does that, so it must be legal), put them through a four-week training course, pay them 2-3 times minimum wage, and have more home-grown computer systems analysts than they know what to do with. But foreigners are cheaper. Period.

Jim Bowery said...

Beyond Anon opines: "I would suggest that with only about 220M (or maybe less) whites in the US, the number of people available to the high tech companies with IQs in the right range is insufficient."

What data exists on the IQ of foreign STEM workers?

In the absence of such data, I'll go from my personal experience with HP's Dotcon debacle, eSpeak:

The Indian management of that $500M risk capital investment in "Internet Chapter II" were explicitly blocking Harvard PhDs with mathematical specialties necessary to actually achieve "Internet Chapter II" in favor of Indian employees, some of whom had CS degrees but had barely ever put finger to keyboard. They had "programmed" by filling in coding forms not unlike the 026 punch card forms that were used back in the IBM360 Fortran days.

No, what's going on is that hiring authority is now largely in the hands of those who either are from India or are strongly influenced by those from India and ethnic nepotism is an understatement for what is actually going on:

An infiltration of the critical national infrastructure of the US by foreign aggressors who are acting as though they are quite aware of their mission.

Cail Corishev said...

The problem is that most people have some idea of what people would (or "should", if you like) be earning in a labour market.

I've noticed that too. I was talking to someone who works in marketing for a large food distribution company. It doesn't bother her a bit that her boss makes considerably more than she does, or that the owner of the company makes a lot more, because they always have. Likewise it doesn't bother her that the truck drivers make quite good money for a job that doesn't require much education, because again, that always has paid pretty well.

But the company is always short on people to work on the docks loading boxes on and off trucks. They run constant ads looking for dock workers, and even pay well over minimum wage. But when I suggested that they ought to offer more if they can't get enough people, she was aghast, and griped that the pay is fine, but -- say it with me now -- Americans are just lazy and don't want to work. Why are they supposed to make what they currently make? Just because, I guess.

So a doctor isn't greedy for making what he makes, but a programmer who wants to make a third of what a doctor makes is a lazy, greedy bastard who wants to destroy the economy. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Cail Corishev said...

I would suggest that with only about 220M (or maybe less) whites in the US, the number of people available to the high tech companies with IQs in the right range is insufficient.

I would suggest that you're wrong. As this study points out, and as people who actually work in IT have been saying for as long as this story has been around, this isn't about finding enough geniuses. The cream tends to rise to the top, so it's not that hard to find those guys, and if they're in another country, there's this newfangled Internet thing that allows them to work for whoever offers the most. The high-end stuff is well covered.

This is about the low-skill work for which you don't need a high IQ. If you're capable of balancing a checkbook, you can probably learn to do these jobs. They need lots of these people -- enough that saving a few bucks per hour per person adds up to way more than they'll ever pay their small core of geniuses. These are the people they want to get from the cheapest possible source that can meet the bare minimum requirements of the job.

Jim Bowery said...

Slashdot (the oldest news blog explicitly for US STEM workers) has posted the study for comment by STEM workers.

Anonymous said...

So a doctor isn't greedy for making what he makes, but a programmer who wants to make a third of what a doctor makes is a lazy, greedy bastard who wants to destroy the economy. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Whomever makes the rules is stuck in 1975, or maybe even 1875. The perception remains that an information worker (which includes, but is not limited to, programmers) is some sort of academic monk who will do it all for peanuts. This could be simple social snobbery, or maybe a New York centered view ignoring Silicon Valley.

Cail Corishev said...

The perception remains that an information worker (which includes, but is not limited to, programmers) is some sort of academic monk who will do it all for peanuts.

My theory is that everyone has a geeky nephew who will come over and fix their PC problems for a box of ice cream bars, so how hard could it be? Because all "computer work" is the same after all, just like a podiatrist can do your heart surgery, right?

Of course, then they turn around and say we need foreign workers because American universities can't produce capable enough workers anymore, so I dunno. I guess the quest for cheaper labor to provide cheaper consumer goods doesn't have to make logical sense.

Anonymous said...

The perception remains that an information worker (which includes, but is not limited to, programmers) is some sort of academic monk who will do it all for peanuts.

My theory is that everyone has a geeky nephew who will come over and fix their PC problems for a box of ice cream bars, so how hard could it be? Because all "computer work" is the same after all, just like a podiatrist can do your heart surgery, right?


Not quite... although I like your podiatrist / heart surgeon analogy. The media and the entertainment industry, and to a lesser extent public education, drive public perception of vocations. All three are reactionaries deep at heart trying to seem hip and cool.

"Com-pyoo-ter pee-pul" are all the same to medioids, because 50-75 years ago they were all the same type of applied mathematician, with no real specialization. Systems analyst? Software engineer? Web page designer? All the same. Yet medioids see non-computer-related engineers more clearly, because engineers have always been around.

Of course, then they turn around and say we need foreign workers because American universities can't produce capable enough workers anymore, so I dunno. I guess the quest for cheaper labor to provide cheaper consumer goods doesn't have to make logical sense.

How about cheaper, foreign-educated lawyers then? Cheaper ad executives? Cheaper fashion designers? Cheaper choreographers? It works both ways.

Anonymous said...

Cail Corashev says:

This is about the low-skill work for which you don't need a high IQ. If you're capable of balancing a checkbook, you can probably learn to do these jobs. They need lots of these people -- enough that saving a few bucks per hour per person adds up to way more than they'll ever pay their small core of geniuses.

Perhaps you can tell us what you think these positions are and Steve can report on them.

I have worked in a number of Silicon Valley tech companies, both post-IPO public companies and startups, so I can easily let you know whether your guesses are correct.

I have never seen them use H1B staff for secretaries, receptionists, HR staff, shipping and receiving staff, etc.

Cail Corishev said...

Perhaps you can tell us what you think these positions are

Level 1 tech support, for starters. If most of the ones I've gotten on support calls could balance a checkbook, I'd be surprised. You don't need a CS degree to walk through a troubleshooting list and ask people if they've rebooted and type what they say.