H-1B Almost Always Boils Down to Wages

It is often overlooked in the debate on the H-1B work visa that the program is used to import foreign K-12 teachers. The article in today’s Sacramento Bee is a case in point.

But of course, as the SCTA president points out in the article, the “shortage crisis” is of the school district’s own making. They are simply not offering high enough wages to attract the teachers they need.

In the tech field, one often hears employers say that they hire H-1Bs to work in “hardship posts,” say small towns in the Midwest, or to work in jobs requiring frequent travel. Well, the employer would have to pay an American a premium in such jobs, so even if the employer is paying fair wages for the given region, he is getting a bargain; H-1B is saving him money.

I’ve often mentioned that tech employers like hiring foreign workers because they are essentially immobile, at least if they are being sponsored for a green card. This too can be viewed as a way to save wages, because the employer would have to offer an American more money to keep him from jumping ship to another employer.

The big example of course is hiring younger H-1Bs in lieu of older Americans.

The irony, though, is that the SCTA takes a pro-immigration stance. Taken literally, their position is rather mild — they say for instance, “regardless of immigration status, emergency medical care should not be denied to any person,” which is ALREADY the case — it is clear that these are the kinds of people who view those who call for reduced levels of immigration, e.g. Donald Trump, as ogres. But oh no, when immigration policy affects their own pocketbooks, in this case with the district’s bringing in foreign workers to avoid raising wages, they are adamantly opposed. They’ll be in for quite a shock when they find that comprehensive immigration reform includes a direct and/or indirect expansion of the H-1B program.

But the most militant ethnic activists exhibit no such hypocrisy. Even when the H-1B program harms their own ethnic group, they are quick to shout the magic incantation, “our broken immigration system,” even when an employer does the right thing by hiring U.S. citizens and permanent residents instead of an H-1B. I reported some years ago on a case involving the San Francisco Unified School District. The district had been employing an H-1B Cantonese-speaking counselor but declined to sponsor her for a green card, rightly noting that there were plenty of qualified American Cantonese speakers who could be hired for the $113,000-a-job. Yet the ethnic activists howled.

Many activists on the “restrictionist” side tend to be equally dogmatic and intransigent. It’s sad that we cannot have a national discussion of the immigration issue on a humane but practical basis; sadly, neither the politicians nor the press will allow it.


17 thoughts on “H-1B Almost Always Boils Down to Wages

  1. Regarding the “hardship posts”.

    I now work at a major US bank via an Indian consulting company a la Tata.

    The pay is reasonably good (not as good as it used the be, by better than most other offers).

    However, the management had set a very ambitious schedule and the expectation is that workers have to work 7 days a week and long hours if needed.


    • what most don’t seem to want to discuss is this.

      This is one of the primary reasons non-immigrant guest workers are hired by these firms.

      An american like myself would say its beer thirty and if you didn’t like it, you can go straight to hell as I know my rights.

      And be willing to fight hr and corporate via attorney’s if necessary.

      The guys, and gals that are being worked like slaves do not understand that they have these rights as well.


      • >>> The guys, and gals that are being worked like slaves do not understand that they have these rights as well.

        .. And when they speak up of their “rights” , few (?) on our side want it muted.. by saying “how dare they speak of their rights”, “they always want entitlements aka entitlement attitude” “our laws should be changed so they do not have any voice either with Congress or with the administration”.

        Secondly, INA codifies specifically for them to work as slaves/indentured servants with golden hand cuffs –
        And we must thank the cartel profusely for that!


  2. On a tangent, Amtrak’s magazine, “The National”, April-May 2017 issue, has a interview with Melinda Gates and her push to help increase the number of women in IT.

    Has any reporter ever asked her why her husband and other IT leaders support the H1-B visa which harms US women’s chances for IT employment?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have not run the actual data yet, but I believe the oft-repeated claim that the proportion of women among the H-1Bs is lower than among the Americans is false. If anything, I believe the opposite is true, at least outside of the “Infosyses.”


      • And you would be correct.

        Disclaimer: This is a non-scientific observation from working in IT for the last the last 3 decades and observing the changes in the last 15 years.

        Most H1B women are in QA testing, a very few are developers or DBAs, (and these few usually code rings around their male counterparts.) The number of American women is very low. Probably the lowest percentage in the group. Best guesstimate is between 4 and 7% of the total.

        Average IT shop rough estimates for the last 10 years. (this does not include upper level management)
        55% Male H1B
        20% American Male
        20% H1B Female
        5% American Female


  3. A “small town in the Midwest” is not a “hardship post”. A worker can buy a mansion or estate compared to what is available on the coasts. The commute is fast, the air clean, and living is good. The worst thing is the snow up north and the tornadoes to the south. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • In case it wasn’t clear…I put the term “hardship post” in quotation marks to indicate that this is not my personal view. It is the view of many Americans, fairly or not, and those Americans indeed would work in such regions only with a major wage premium.


      • Call me – I love the small towns, and while I won’t work cheap, I will work and do the job and you won’t have to pay me a premium..

        Just saying

        Keep America At Work
        Trust me, you can find me as I am everywhere on the internet.
        And if you can’t, it is because you don’t want too.


      • I know, Norm; it is those who have never been here who dismiss what we have. Of course, many we would not want to be our neighbors.We’d love a wage premium; we just want challenging jobs!

        About 20 years ago,the company I worked for – which by the way designed and built high performance computer equipment used in the oil industry for many years – was bought out. by a west cost company. They decided they needed to move their engineering to CA because even though we had products in demand by a major big data center computer company you could not do engineering here in the Midwest. Not only did we do the design but also the assembly in the manufacturing area downstairs. My lab workstation was mobile; if we had a unit that could not pass final test, I would roll downstairs and work with the techs to debug the unit. We’d have all sorts of equipment on that poor malfunctioning unit; it did not have a chance of not making it out the door fully functional.

        When we were doing final acceptance test on one of our big products, you did not want to be the one furthest behind on Saturday morning because you got the assistance of “super tech”, the corporate VP for our division. It passed and we all could finally go back to normal hours – until the next crisis. Yet they said we were less capable than those on the West Coast. Those who were not laid off had to train their replacements (Americans not H-1Bs at that time). Two years later or so, the company was out of business. Our equipment went on and on and on.


  4. Small towns in the Midwest are “hardship posts” in the sense that they are a career risk: if you purchase your large house and try to settle into the community you’ll find yourself completely dependent upon your employer since there is no other that needs your skills in your town. The company knows this and can use it as leverage against you.

    Companies who needed a mobile workforce that would be willing to uproot their families frequently used to buy it with lots of perks and corporate loyalty (IBM in the 80s was called I’ve Been Moved, but it was also a company that never had a layoff and offered very generous relocation packages).

    Nowadays workers are disposable and Americans respond by congregating in large employment centers, treating their current job as a gig and always looking for the next opportunity. Companies that still need staff in field centers turn to foreigners who have no choice and no say in how they’re treated.


  5. Check out the recent NY Times article (July 13th, p. B4, “Q. and A.: If Workers Are Scarce, Is It the Work or the Wages?” by Patricia Cohen – a follow-up to a prior article July 7th about lack of wage growth)

    It has an employer (roofing company in this case) responding to a question and claiming that they “have to” hire guest workers because the can’t “afford” to pay what it would take to attract American workers. At least the question is being asked (in the NY Times!) now. There was lots of pushback in the online comments as well to this employer’s response.


    • I notice business is entitled to foreign labor at the price they’re willing to pay (to use Romney’s words) but the public is not entitled to import products from other countries at the price they’re willing to pay. Prescription drugs, for example.
      So the public is hostaged to business/labor rates, but not extended the same privileges for their own benefit.


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