Education and Opportunity

I’m not overly obsessive, however I take periodic account of my employment history, matching its trend against the more general trends, which characterize wages in the United States. Among the figures, it was a surprise to recount that, at two firms, my department employed, in one case, two H-1B interns out of seven employees, and in other, five of twelve.

These workers were varied, but typical of foreign interns working under the H-1B visa program: Chinese, Canadian, East Indian. The shock is that a surplus of highly educated foreigners are inexpensive plane tickets away from employers near you. We should be shocked, because a college degree represents the entry-level criteria for occupational readiness, and a large number of U.S. job candidates do not meet this qualification, even though most are more socially adept and intuitively aware of local business needs. The fact that businesses readily employ H-1B visa holders over local talent may also be found in society’s laser-focus on the bottom line.  In anecdote, foreigners are harder workers than Americans. Business likes that. Because industry does not have to care about economic externalities (environmental costs passed on to society), local workers – and increasingly poor around the world – must live with the fallout of an undermined economic situation.

Those depressing facts are real. South Korean graduates need only hop on a trans-Pacific flight, with little baggage other than a carry-on, and be at work in Seattle or Bellevue within days. It could have been you.

A critic might say that those here on H-1B status aren’t many, and that companies do not always take full advantage of the program. However, the fact remains that many American professionals are out of work, but not necessarily for lack of work. My argument is not at all against foreign workers. It is about educating our own and making placing U.S. citizens in high-wage positions a priority. Give Americans first dibs on the opportunity.

This last point raises another issue I’ll touch on briefly. America needs to loosen the requirements of EEOC with regards to multi-cultural origins. Women still face a huge disadvantage, but race is becoming more moot by the minute. How many of us are of mixed heritage? If you read between my lines, you will see that I advocate for spreading opportunity among citizens, but would removing the more legacy components of EEOC laws cause the hiring of minorities to tumble? My guess is the country is past this point.

I appreciate your comments.

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