3 Graphs Explain Why There Is A Tech-Talent Shortage And Immigrants Are Needed

Posted: May 11, 2013 in GT, Technology

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Yes, we do need high-skilled immigrants because we
don’t have enough qualified workers. Contrary to a
widely publicized report claiming that a tech-talent
shortage is a myth, A new Brookings Institution study
confirms our argument that there is a shortage and
businesses need immigrants to fill the innovation vacuum. “This report matters because accurate facts about
h1B and STEM shortage is important as
congressional debate moves forward about increasing
the number of h1B visa and allowing more foreign
STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math]
workers to stay in the US,” author Neil Ruiz tells me in an email, which is a not-so-subtle jab at the
controversial Economic Policy Institute report
claiming the opposite. Conclusions bolded for your scanning convenience. The Debate, In Brief Earlier this month, the Economic Policy Institute
made national headlines for a study claiming that
there was no technology talent shortage, and the
foreign worker visa program (H1-B) was largely a ruse
to exploit cheap immigrants at the cost of natives.
They argued: There is a surplus of American graduates with
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
degrees
Wages for STEM careers are stagnant; if there was a
dearth of applicants, wages would rise to attract more
workers Because of the EPI’s famously anti-H1-B stance and
the fact they didn’t use common statistical
techniques to control for worker demographics (like
age), a lot of experts in the field wigged out. Now, a
Brookings Institute study aims to quantify the wigging
outage, for ammo against EPI and in support of the technology community, which has cried for a long
time that the U.S. needs more foreign talent. 1. Employers Wait Months To Fill Positions As our own technology sources have been telling us,
we know there’s a shortage in qualified STEM
workers because positions can go months unfulfilled.
43% of jobs in areas that commonly seek H1-B
employees are unfilled after at least a month. 2. High-skilled Immigrants Earn 20% More Rothwell and Ruiz find that H1-B workers earn, on
average, 20% more than their native counterparts,
which jives with previous research comparing
immigrants by age, education level, and English-
proficiency. In part, this finding still exposes a dark
side of high-skilled immigrants: they inject a fresh pool of young applicants who are willing to work for
less pay than their older, mid-career counterparts. 3. Wages Are Growing Contrary to the Economic Policy Institute’s
conclusions, the researchers find that wages in
STEM fields are growing, adjusted for inflation ( 8%
vs. 0% for all workers, from 2000 to 2012). At our
request, they looked at data from the Department of
Labor’s Current Population Survey, finding “In the three major STEM categories (Computer and Math
Occupations; Architecture and Engineering; and Life,
Physical, and Social Sciences), inflation adjusted
median wage growth was both positive and higher
than all workers 16 and over,” Rothwell tells me in an
email. (Since this was data they shared with me in an email,
I’ve included it in a public Google Doc, for you wonks
out there). Ugh, Economists Debating. Who Should I
believe? When economists debate over numbers, it’s hardly
fun for the American public, since they don’t have the
mathematical chops to evaluate the facts for
themselves. Here’s why I’m gung-ho about the
Brookings piece (aside from the fact that I think it’s
methodologically superior): you’d have to quite a conspiracy theorist to believe that hundreds of
technology leaders could effectively coordinate a lie
about immigration reform. They’re not lying about the fact that they can’t fill
positions. Now, before our critical readers freak out, yes, the
H1-B system is rotten with abuse and exploitation.
Also, yes, we should be doing a better job of
educating Americans. It’s an important debate to
have, but let’s get the facts straight first.

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