Monday, February 2, 2009

But guest workers cost less

In the seething cauldron that passes for debate about immigration, the fact that we already have a guest worker program often gets lost. Of course, I mean the H-1B visa program that permits American high tech companies to hire foreign workers.

The stated purpose of this program is to cover programmer shortages. That is complete bullshit. Many American programmers have the skills to do these jobs; they're just more expensive than a 20-something new grad of an Indian or Chinese technical university. They're also not indentured to the company that sponsors their visa.

Now, of course, American unemployment is pretty high. So, for that matter, is Indian and Chinese unemployment. The Indians I manage across a 10 1/2 hour difference are not nearly as mobile as they were a couple of years ago, when even 30% raises were no guarantee of keeping someone.

If there are too many workers now - isn't that the definition of high unemployment - you might reasonably ask why we need a guest worker program.

The answer confirms what I've been saying from the beginning: Microsoft and other large software companies want more, not fewer, H-1B visas. The reason remains the same - lower costs, not labor shortages. Now, however, there's less political cover for the bullshit.

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