We Are Creating a Dependency on H-1B Workers
Thirst for cheaper guest workers is pushing a generation of Americans away from tech fields, enlarging the void
December 28, 2011
America has become a dangerously dependent nation. We are perilously dependent on others—primarily the Chinese—to finance our massive deficits. We are increasingly reliant on hostile nations to supply our energy needs.
Of late, we have become dependent on other nations to supply workers to fill jobs in the fields on which we have staked our economic future: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). American businesses seem to have an insatiable desire for more and more H-1B guest workers, even as our economy limps along and unemployment remains unacceptably high.
The most disturbing truth about our increasing reliance on foreign labor to fill jobs that are critical to our nation's future is that it is a dependency that is unnecessary and self-defeating. There is no shortage of qualified Americans to fill jobs in the STEM fields. If anything, there is a glut of trained workers right here at home.
- Fewer than one third of U.S. graduates with degrees in the sciences and engineering are working in fields closely related to their degrees.
- In 2006, the National Science Foundation estimated that there were at most 5.8 million U.S. jobs in STEM fields and 16.6 million workers with degrees in these professions.
- Wages in STEM occupations have not kept pace with those for other college graduates and, in some cases, have actually decreased.
The problem is not a dearth of domestic talent, rather a preference on the part of companies for guest workers whom they believe will work for less money and who have fewer options to switch employers. A Government Accountability Office report stated it explicitly: "H-1B workers were often prepared to work for less money than U.S. workers."
The preference of U.S. employers for foreign workers is in danger of creating a national vulnerability in industries that are acknowledged to be vital to America's future. Excessive admission of H-1B workers discourages Americans from making the investment of time, brainpower, and money to train for careers in these fields. If we continue on this path, we will create a dependency where one does not currently exist and one need not exist in the future.
American workers continue to be the most innovative and productive in the STEM fields. As a nation, our policy ought to be to nurture our homegrown talent, not to cut their legs out from under them by allowing employers unfettered access to foreign workers.