Ben Langhinrichs

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US programmers an "Endangered species"?

Fri 15 Oct 2004, 12:00 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Someone in the Gold Forum posted a link to an article entitled Endangered specials: US Programmers from the Christian Science Monitor, which I have long thought of as one of the more intelligent and thoughtful newspapers, but which I have not read much in recent years.   I have a problem with the premise partly because it sounds like thinly veiled racism (or culturalism, perhaps) to draw this line so clearly between "US programmers" and "foreign H-1B" workers.  In particular, the following paragraph seems to suggest that US programming jobs aren't disappearing so much as being taken up by new people:
Although computer-related jobs in the United States increased by 27,000 between 2001 and 2003, about 180,000 new foreign H-1B workers in the computer area entered the nation, calculates John Miano, an expert with the Programmers Guild, a professional society. "This suggests any gain of jobs have been taken by H-1B workers," he says.
Now, it is possible that there are problems with the H-1B visa program, but look at the paragraph lower down:
The average wage for an American programmer runs about $60,000, says John Bauman, who set up the Organization for the Rights of American Workers. Employers pay H-1Bs an average $53,000.
.  The wage difference is not so large that I think it poises a fundamental problem, the way a $25/hour being replaced by a $0.75/hour worker in a third world country does.  The H-1B workers may be a bit cheaper, but at 88%, their wage differential is less than the wage differential between women and men (usually quoted as 73% these days), so I don't think the competition should drive US programmers out of work as much as into a lower tax bracket.  That may be serious, but it does not an "endangered species" make.

Any thoughts?

Copyright 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

225.1. Richard Schwartz
(10/15/2004 11:51 PM)

The difference is larger. Most H-1Bs are employed as contractors. It's a limited time visa, so permanent employment doesn't make sense. The $60,000 salary is somewhere in the range of 50% to 75% of the employer's costs per employee programmer, so the average fully loaded cost is going to be somewhere in between $90,000 and $120,000. As we're dealing with averages here, let's just say $90,000. That's the number you have to compare to the $53,000, which is the full cost to the employer of average H-1B contractor. So, it can be more like a 37% cost savings, not a mere 12%.