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High Tech Unemployment

Clayton exposes a scheme to allow more tech workers from countries such as India and China to obtain permanent residence in the United States. He notes:

Of course, the problem that the tech companies are trying to solve is “a lack of access to highly-skilled workers.”  Wow.  You would never know that America is awash in software and electrical engineers who are out of work, working part-time, or making a fraction of what they did several years ago.  And so we need to simplify the process of bringing in low-paid workers from other countries?

I am making about 35% less than I was making in my previous job, so I am sympathetic to the notion that salaries are taking a beating. But I still support making it easier for the best and brightest from other countries to come here and make the United States their home. I’d much rather have those individuals here, where they will have very similar cost of living situations to myself, than to be competing against them living in their home countries, where the cost of living is a pittance compared to here.

With technology increasingly blurring national borders, I think having the talent where, where they at least have to complete on the same cost of living, cost of doing business playing field, is inherently more advantageous than having them competing against us from home.

29 Responses to “High Tech Unemployment”

  1. Andy says:

    I’ve said this on Clayton’s blog before and I’ll say it here. The big difference between out-of-work tech people in the US and immigrants is that the immigrants are willing to move. Sebastian, if you had moved to DC I would have been able to point you at THREE job openings that I just happen to know about that match your skills. And I’m sure my recruiter could keep you on an interview circuit for quite sometime. For Clayton, I have a job opening that has been open since February that matches his skill set. And it looks like I’ll be getting another. Just because the jobs aren’t in the mid-west or southern Pennsylvania doesn’t mean they aren’t in the US.

    • Oddly enough, there are jobs right here in Boise that are good matches for my experience–and in one case, they actually advertised that the position was only open to new graduates and those with less than 15 years of experience. There are jobs RIGHT HERE but discrimination against experienced people (even willing to work at the same wages as a person with two years of experience) is quite blatant.

    • I recognize that my unwillingness to move limits my choices. But there are a lot of people who are willing to move, and are unable to get anyone to consider them, because they are over 40.

      • Gunship Cowboy says:

        Or they don’t want to hire the engineer with his Professional Engineer state license, over 30 years experience within a couple of years of retirement. I could turn their projects out faster than the new kid fresh out of school AND I could train the young engineers they have in the office to do the job right the first time. So I was forced to take retirement two years early. How many other people like me are now taking Social Security, their retirement and dipping into retirement savings because Obama and the Congress aren’t doing their job to stop spending money they don’t have, reducing regulations and repealing Dodd-Frank so the banks can start lending money again. Rant Over.

  2. David says:

    Yeah, it’s great when these H1-B slaves take jobs that pay nothing and work them to death with the constant threat of being sent back to a communist country or a place where they have yet to discover indoor plumbing.

    I don’t disagree with keeping foreign students who have been educated in the U.S, at the same time, we should be limiting what foreign students can study.

  3. DirtCrashr says:

    My Indian MS tech-neighbor who graduated from Baylor moved his family to Singapore because the BayArea was too expensive and the local schools for his children SUCK. They are holding the property and renting their home to another foreign tech-guy entrepreneur who makes absolutely *stupid* amounts of real money from game-playing idiots on Facebook, and can afford the lifestyle – his kids are in a different school-district.

  4. Jeffrey H says:

    Having worked with several H1-B guys I wouldn’t call them wage slaves they all made fat cash (six figures) that I think any American would be happy to make. If making over 100k a year is a wage slave I guess you are coming from a different perspective than me. I agree with Sebastian, not necessarily for the cost of living aspect, but I think all of our society benefits from getting smart people into our country. The jobs are highly paid so that means those people are spending money in their communities, paying taxes, and with the new companies that are created with that brain power creating more jobs that will eventually hire more Americans or qualified engineers. So as a Software Engineer I support H1B’s as well, as if I can’t compete against them, then that means I need to up my game, rather than try to keep them out of our country. Would we rather educate all these bright people only to send them home to their countries to start up companies there instead of here?

    • Andy says:

      My experience with H1-Bs is the same. They make real money and don’t work for slave wages.

    • David says:

      The ones I dealt with were Oracle guys from India and South Korea. There is a reason the employer went the H1-B route they were paying about 40% less than what the market was paying Oracle guys. Management treated these guys like crap, going so far as to tell them they could send them home and get another H1-B guy. I realize this may have been an extreme, but I heard other horror stories just like it from others I work with.

      As for moving for a job, there is little reason to move. Now, I can work at home whenever I want. For today’s tech worker, there is not a compelling reason to have everyone in an off all the time.

      • Andy says:

        I have no love for Oracle, but big companies that have any number of H1-Bs get audited regularly.

        And it is not true that tech workers can always work at home. Sysadmins tend to have a hands-on-boxes need, and any software dev team worth its salt is usually highly collaborative requiring lots of direct interaction. It’s hard to pare program beyond 1 foot. Maybe that’s the issue; American tech workers expect to work at home and then wonder why they can’t find any jobs that let them do that.

        • I concede that physical access is sometimes needed. But programming (both Agile and Pair) can be done remotely if the company culture supports it and the company provides good remote working tools.

          I work every day with people from all over the country and we do development using both conventional and Agile practices without being in the same city, much less the same room. We use a lot of conference calls and web meetings to accomplish what we once would have done by waving hands around at each other in the hallways.

          • Andy says:

            No teleworking technology can compete with the bullpen. We do telephone conferences and video chats and everything else feasible to enable remote work (in fact, I’m the champion for it in our office), but nothing beats physical presence.

          • “if the company culture supports it”: aye, there’s the rub. There is more work involved in doing so–and why put out the effort when you can hire people readily who are willing to relocate on short notice?

          • Back in the mid-1980s, I had some people that worked for me remotely, and it worked well, partly because these were people that I knew well, and they were very, very smart. We were also a small American development branch of a German company.

            My boss seemed to spend most of his time on vacation; I would sometimes go for months at a time without any email contact with him. (I would email him–and he would never respond.) He told me in the most arm-waving of ways what he wanted–and expected me to make it happen. I had the same relationship with a couple of my employees who were remote–they did not need direction, supervision, or handholding. (One was mostly deaf, so working face to face would have been more work.)

            This does not work with everyone, and I know that some employers are understandably wary.

      • There are jobs that could be telecommuting, but in practice, it takes a lot more management effort to make that work, and for some types of work (such as embedded development) it is simply impractical when it is not impossible.

        I would love to see more employers put out the effort on this, but I do not expect it. I do expect employers to hire the most qualified applicants that they can find, instead of insisting that they will only hire people who are under 40.

    • There are H-1B workers who are exactly what the program was supposed to be about: highly skilled workers doing jobs for which there were no qualified Americans. But there are a lot of H-1B workers who are paid shockingly poorly, and have very generic job skills. At the same time that HP was laying off hundreds of us in Boise, they were advertising for H-1B workers with two years of experience doing Java or C#. No other qualifications or skills.

      • Andy says:

        Clayton, and you have personally filed complaints with the powers that be over both the blatant age discrimination and abuse of the H1-B program? What were the results? How far did you take this?

        • HP just kept insisting that the ads were miscommunication failures, pulled them down, and then put them back up again a week later, then pulled them down again when called on them.

          The age discrimination? No. In some respects, it is better to have it out in the open. At least this way I don’t waste my time applying for a position where I am not going to be seriously considered.

      • Andy says:

        One other thing. If you think being a Java or C# programmer with some dabbling in web apps and relational databases makes you uniquely skilled, think again. I can off-shore to get those skills; I don’t have to hire domestically for that. High school kids can achieve that knowledge level. When I read a resume, I’m looking for project work, unique or industry-specific domain knowledge and off-beat technology specialties. If you just wrote Java web apps, you’re just like millions of other coders. If you built a public key crypto system, or worked on a distributed hybrid-data replication system, or integrated DNS number plans into a VoIP system, that is attention getting stuff. If your resume is a jumble of buzzwords, it looks like all the others. But if it says you’ve done interesting stuff, that speaks to your abilities.

        • I actually have a pretty amazing resume.

          I’ve been a project leader taking development efforts from a blank sheet of paper through maintenance.

          I’ve done embedded C development for telephone switches and data comm products. I’ve ported open source DHCP server code to a DSL access multiplexer, and created a pseudo-Unix file system as part of that effort. I’ve rewritten embedded file systems so that they were actually reliable–a complete replacement of the old code.

          I’ve led technical publications groups, and produced what many of my colleagues considered the most entertaining technical documents in our industry.

          I have done fairly important development environment rearchitecting work on really screwed up systems.

          I have worked in three different startups, two of which were mildly successful (meaning my stock options were worth some money, although not quite enough for early retirement).

          I have done a lot of writing in assembly language (something of an antique skill now, but at times useful for understanding hardware issues), and I am used to working alongside a hardware engineer and an oscilloscope for resolving complex hardware/firmware interactions.

          You would think some of this experience would be worth something.

          • Andy says:

            If you are willing to move, I’m willing to interview you.

            • It probably does not make sense for me. I have a low paying government job, but I am greatly upside down in my house (as are most people today). A private sector job would probably pay $20,000 a year more than I make now, but I would lose that much from having to rent an apartment, and being pushed into a higher tax bracket.

              For people who are unemployed, and especially without health insurance, it makes sense (even if they have to go through foreclosure on the house).

  5. DirtCrashr says:

    I have six patents, none of which enrich me. I’m not upsidown on the home and it’s worth more than I/we paid, but I couldn’t sell and move without incurring a huge tax burden, losing my Prop-13 safety-shield, paying a massive “weather-tax,” and getting into a tax-bracket that just isn’t worth being in anymore. I lived in the DC-metro area before (Arlington), and that was enough. :-)

  6. Andy says:

    As I stated in the first comment, the big difference between the natives and the immigrants is that the natives are unwilling to move to where the jobs are located. So it isn’t a matter of “they are coming over and taking our jobs.” And the comments here show that.

    If you think this “scheme” is wrong, then I suggest you personally quit feeding the beast. Stop buying imports so domestic producers will have buyers and bring back all those quality factory jobs of the 50’s. If you think it wrong for companies to hire import workers, then quit buying import products yourself. Of course, that means no more cell phones, TVs, or computers. Most childrens toys are out, and half the guns at the local shop are off limits. You’ll barely be able to clothe yourself, but do not expect of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.

    • Oddly enough, many of us do make a serious effort to buy American. My wife just bought running shoes–made in America. (New Balance still makes some of their shoes here.) My socks? American made. I have a vertical mill and lathe in my garage–made in California (which is technically still part of the U.S.)

      I do not think it is wrong for companies to hire imported workers, but I do think it is wrong for them to import labor when there are Americans with the experience who are unemployed or underemployed.

  7. Gene Hoffman says:

    And very few of you are willing to move to Silicon Valley where we have an absolute shortage of good developers and IT ops folks…

    -Gene

    • I remember being quite surprised about a year ago looking at Silicon Valley job ads, and my surprise at how many of the positions provided stock options and health insurance–but no salary. The assumption was that you were independently wealthy, and would not need something as primitive as a regular paycheck.

    • One other part of the problem is the cost of living in Silicon Valley is pretty astonishing. I make $29/hour (and yes, we are paid as hourly employees by the state), or about $60,000/year. I would have to make about $150,000/year to live in Silicon Valley and have the same standard of living (since housing is about four times as expensive there). Pretty obviously, no one pays engineers that well in Silicon Valley.

  8. DirtCrashr says:

    Real-estate capture is as effective or pernicious as regulatory capture – or it’s one flavor out of the same ice-cream machine.

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