When attempting to find employees with “high demand” skills, companies find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They are accused of profiteering when they outsource jobs to cheaper foreign countries (referred to as “offshoring”) and so they attempt to source talent from other countries. Unfortunately, the cap on the number of H1-Bs issued, coupled with higher fees usually eliminates that option. While no company objects to keeping the jobs in America, they do have huge problems with their inability to source the right kind of talent.
Like many things in life both the H1-B cap and offshoring have their pros and cons, requiring a judicious approach to the use of either.
H1B Cap: By restricting the number of skilled people who enter the country and compete for highly paid jobs, the government hopes to protect opportunities for internal talent.
Offshore outsourcing, also presents two sides to the coin and requires a thorough scrutiny to separate political rhetoric from actual business and economic impact.
During this election year, the government is beginning to weigh in, proposing legislation to limit offshoring. Many banks, insurers, financial firms have downsized their US-based call center operations and sent them overseas. Bishop’s Bill proposes to track call center jobs being outsourced abroad and render them ineligible to any direct or indirect US federal loans or loan guarantees for the next 5 years. It also requires the call center employees to mention their location over the call and allow the customers the choice to route their calls back to a call center in the US.
Will these actions help or hurt an already struggling U.S. economy? By outsourcing jobs which were non-strategic, some companies have saved themselves from bankruptcy.
Unemployment in the information technology sector is said to be below 4%. Starved of talented workers, the IT industry depends upon overseas talent – so much so that Microsoft testified to the US Senate that issuing visas, to non-US citizens educated in some of the best universities in the world, helps the U.S. improve its competitiveness. The high number of foreign students in master’s degree courses and Ph.D. programs in the US, provides an opportunity to increase our competitiveness by encouraging those top students to stay and contribute to our economy. Otherwise, we are using our top universities to increase the economic strength of other nations at our expense.
Highly skilled talent from around the world is an invaluable and necessary support system. Our economic turn-around is dependent on businesses being able to plan new products and initiatives knowing that they can build the workforce needed to grow their business. The funds generated from the surcharge levied on H1 B should be used to offer scholarships to American students to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers. That, unfortunately, is a longer-term solution that can’t address the immediate workforce shortages facing businesses today. To supply today’s teachers, architects, health-care workers, pharmaceutical researchers and software developers, the H1B program should be overhauled. Further, it is time that the U.S. government ensured that its policies and programs support today’s reality of a global economy.
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