Immigration and the Talent Gap


Hello French Fries!

As I have alluded to in previous posts, there is a gap in available talent in the tech industry. While it’s a good thing for workers like me who can command a higher salary due to the economic theory of supply and demand, for the industry as a whole it’s a drag on growth and productivity. With too many unfilled positions, those of us who are working in tech have to work longer hours to get projects done with fewer human resources. Instead of being able to stack projects to be worked on concurrently, we have to prioritize projects to get them done as the backlog gets longer and longer. The high demand on employed tech workers and low supply of available help has led those who are in the tech workforce to have a high burnout rate. Since prioritization and demand for tech skills is high, the cost associated with getting a project done is increased, and as is the case with most of corporate America, the price increase is borne by the consumer.

programmersOne of the most successful solutions hiring managers have found to filling positions is increasing their net’s cast. By looking abroad to places like India, Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where there’s a sizable quantity of qualified worker and a lack of jobs and other push factors such as poor economic or political situations, the tech industry has been able to stave off a huge catastrophe by importing talent from abroad via employee sponsored H1-B immigration. The H1-B visa scheme has been a valued lifeline for the tech industry, as it enables hiring managers to attract qualified talent from overseas to fill the domestic talent shortage. It’s a mutually beneficial scheme since the workers who gain the H1-B visa, and their families, get to start a new life in the safety and security of the United States and it’s status as an economic, political and democratic superpower. Unfortunately, this scheme is under threat.

President Trump rode to power on the wave of right-wing populism and has made no qualms about his xenophobic attitudes. His administration has been plotting the demise of the H1-B visa scheme. This would be very bad for the tech industry at a time where it’s fueling most of the renaissance in the American economy. The anti-immigration policies of the current administration will exasperate the talent gap in the tech industry, which could potentially fuel a demise of productivity in tech, and in consequence an economic downturn in general. However, there is not much incentive for Trump to throw any bones to the tech industry given that the vast majority of the tech workforce voted against his election and oppose his politics. The H1-B visa scheme is vital to the sustainment of the tech revolution, as are other immigration focused schemes like DACA. In fact, immigration in general has been one of the largest and most beneficial factors in the history of America’s economic and political success.

shipThe periods of the strongest economic growth in the United States are directly correlated with high rates of immigration from abroad. From 1715 to 1775 the economy of the 13 British colonies that would go on to form the United States increased twelvefold. In that same period, the population of the 13 colonies expanded from roughly 340,000 inhabitants in 1715 to 2.7 million inhabitants at the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775, the vast majority of this growth being the result of immigration from abroad. During the American Guilded Age, the American GDP grew from $16 billion in 1860 to $88 billion in 1900. This growth coincided with a massive immigration wave. 25 million immigrants arrived in America in between 1870 and 1900, by which time 13.6 percent of the American population was a born abroad. Similarly, the 1990s saw a huge economic boom for the United States, which coincided with a large spike in immigration rates.

Conversely, periods of recession can be correlated to lower immigration rates. The Immigration Act of 1924 severely curtailed the acceptance of immigrants to America’s shores. Shortly thereafter, the Great Depression sank America into steep economic decline. Similarly, attempts to curb immigration rates in the early parts of the 2000s presaged the Great Recession of 2007. If the correlations are not enough, statistics further state the case for immigration. Studies have found that immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Americans to start companies and create jobs. Furthermore, and contrary to popular belief, immigration has been proven to increase job opportunities for native-born Americans, and even affect a small bump in wage earnings. These facts would lead one to draw the logical collusion that we should be doing everything in our power as a country to increase immigration rates.

racistsUnfortunately, we have a presidential administration that is averse to statistical facts. President Trump rode to power on a wave of right wing populism that was the logical result of frustration with 8 years of subsiding privilege under President Barack Obama. Politics is a pendulum, and after 8 years of inclusiveness and open-mindedness, those who lost out in that climate clamored back to power, often bearing resentment due to suffering from poor economic opportunities that had led to racist and xenophobic attitudes. Trump is a television star-turned-politician which means he plays the political game the way he best knows by putting on a show and giving his supporters what they want. The people who voted for him are the ones who had suffered the hardest under the economic recession, and humanity often resorts to inward tribalism, racism and xenophobia when they fall on hard times. Trump being their voice-piece has decided to play tough on immigrants, shut down the borders, and externalize these misguided beliefs by scapegoating immigrantsnon-whites, and non-Christians instead of addressing the actual causes and sources that had lead to the recession and the subsequent rise in income inequality. Not only is he seeking to end illegal immigration, but he also wants to drastically curb legal immigration as well. True to his populist form and politically incorrect persona, his statement yesterday (which was too crass for me to repeat on a family-friendly blog) go to the heart of how he and his supporters truly feel about anyone that does not look, pray or think like they do.

welcomeThis is where the tech industry must make it’s stand. Our industry relies on immigration to fill the void our talent gap has created. If the current administration get’s it’s way, not only would it spell doom and gloom for our industry, it could be a serious double dip back into recession for our nation. Our industry relies on this very important talent pipeline, and we must be at the forefront of the debate and fight to keep immigrants coming and staying in this great country. Our very livelihood depends on it. Personally, I believe that unless you are a Native American, your place in America is the benefit of somebody immigrating here, weather it be a distant ancestor or you yourself. Obviously, we should screen for people who would try to do harm to America like terrorists, but I believe an otherwise open border policy would only be a benefit to the American economy and community. For over half of a millennium, the United States and it’s colonial predecessors have been the refuge for the world’s refuse, and that has lead us to be the globes economic superpower today. We should embrace those who want to join and contribute to our society without exception, and in this way, we would truly make America great again.


Until next time…

…the ketchup is in the sauce.

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