Microsoft Threatens to Move (More) Work Offshore

The opening of this CNBC report on Microsoft and immigration policy says it all:

Microsoft does not want to move jobs out of the United States but certain decisions out of Washington could potentially force its hands, the company’s President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith warned.

This of course is an age-old threat by the industry: “Allow us to bring more foreign workers here, or we will move the work abroad!” This always resonates with Congress, conjuring up images of shuttered factories in the Northeast and South. But its one of the more deceptive lines in the H-1B debate.

First, of course, is that pesky little fact that Microsoft is overwhelmed with US job applicants, plenty of whom are well-qualified. The notion that Microsoft’s work won’t get done without foreign workers is just plain false.

But more interestingly, the two-faced nature of Microsoft’s statements like this has been exposed in the past. Back in 2001, for instance, a Microsoft employee smuggled out an internal slide presentation which contained the exhortation, “Pick  something  to  move offshore today!” In other words, instead of being forced to offshore work, the firm was actively seeking to do so. Microsoft has also been caught asking its contract workers to take a furlough, and admitting that most of its jobs are not open to older workers. All this, of course, while continually claiming they need foreign workers to fill their jobs.

The CNBC reported here should have been a little less trusting.

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Just One Data Point, But…

Sorry for my lack of posting for a while. I have a ton of material to discuss, but just don’t have the time. But I couldn’t resist posting this one. Bear with me, as it takes some setting up.

Some of you know, or know of, Mark Regets, retired from the National Science Foundation. In his heyday, he was NSF’s biggest booster of the H-1B program (a high bar!). Well, both Mark and I recently got into using Twitter. I’ve had an account for years (@matloff), but didn’t really use it until an unrelated issue came up.

A week or so ago, journalist Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) and I were discussing PhD production in the US. Though Noah has been a big promoter of H-1B in his Bloomberg View column, the conversation wasn’t really about H-1B or foreign students. But I did state that we are overproducing PhDs, and in jest I wrote “Look at all those PhDs working as barristas!”

Well, Mark saw that, and said this a myth, the PhDs are mostly in decent jobs, etc. I replied that it was just a joke, but seriously many PhDs are UNDER-employed.

I am quite active in the R programming language, which is widely used in the data science field. The annual worldwide R conference, useR!, is currently in progress in Brisbane, Australia. One of the attendees tweeted, I believe seriously, the following:

BARISTA: What are you doing today?

ME: I’m at an conference .

B: Oh I love R, I just moved from SPSS and Stata!

(SPSS and Stata are two commercial products that are fast losing ground to the open source, better quality R.)

🙂