November 16, 2004 5:35 PM PST

Study: U.S. needs foreign-born workers

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The ability of the United States to attract highly trained foreign nationals will be important to overcome both temporary and long-term shortages in certain occupations, according to a new study by a group that backs guest-worker visas.

The report, released Tuesday, was commissioned by Compete America, a group that has called for expanding the controversial H-1B visa program.

"At the same time that the U.S. production of a highly educated work force is slowing down, American companies must compete against firms from countries that are rapidly increasing their own pools of highly educated workers," Sandra Boyd, chairwoman of Compete America, said in a statement Tuesday. "The evidence clearly points to the need for increasing access to highly educated foreign nationals to perform specialized jobs here in the United States."

The study cited National Science Foundation statistics showing that in 1975, the United States ranked third among countries in the number of people aged 18 to 24 who were earning science and engineering degrees, but in 2004 the United States ranked 17th.

Not everyone, though, agrees with the notion that the United States faces shortfalls of science and engineering workers. A study earlier this year from research organization Rand said: "Despite recurring concerns about potential shortages of (scientific, technical, engineering and mathematics) personnel in the U.S. work force, particularly in engineering and information technology, we did not find evidence that such shortages have existed, at least since 1990, nor that they are on the horizon."

H-1B visas have been at the heart of the debate over worker shortages for years. The visas allow skilled foreign workers to come to the United States for up to six years, and historically many of them have been employed by technology companies. The annual cap of 65,000 new H-1B visas for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 was reached that very day.

Compete America, which includes corporations, universities and trade associations, has called for exempting foreign students who receive advanced degrees from U.S. universities from the H-1B cap.

But technology-worker advocates are critical of the H-1B program. They say employers have used the visas in large part to undercut the wages of American techies rather than to make up for a labor shortage.

The new study from Compete America states: "There is no clear evidence that highly educated foreign workers displace native workers in comparable occupations."

The study, conducted by scholars from the Hudson Institute, also said: "the H-1B program continues to be quite flexible in addressing employer needs of a temporary nature (the original intent of the program) while enabling transition to permanent-resident status when labor demand simply cannot be met by the indigenous work force for the foreseeable future."

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Thats corporate America
Hmmm, looks like your research has failed. They say there is no evidence that foreign workers displace regular citizens, the H-1B should be evidence. I am part of the latest string of new grads (Dec 2001) that can not find work in what he wants to do because of this. I sure hope that I can someday use my Computer Science degree. Our government needs to look at these policies of foreign workers and cut them more than half so us regular citizens can pay our government back for school. Send them all home.
Posted by nightstar (23 comments )
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Nonsense!
Surely you jest! YOU can't find work? In America, where there's a shortage of educated workers?!

You just haven't made up a resume, that's all. [/end sarcasm]
Posted by Trapezoid (1 comment )
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be more competitive
companies do not purposely hire foreign workers because they are foreign, especially nowadays with all the visa processes many companies do not hire foreign workers unless they are outstanding. If you cannot find a job, it is definitely not because the foreign workers taking your jobs, it's just because you are not qualified or competitive. Foreign students have gone through a lot just to get to this country to study, you have no idea how fierce the competition is in Asia for technical majors. Unless the American students start to work harder and stop going to so many parties on the weekends and get drunk all day instead of writing code or solving math equations, it would be foolish for the companies not to take the extra effort to hire highly qualified, competitive, and hard working foreign nationals. I just think it's an absolute joke, many international students come in to our GRADUATE classes and say that they already did those in high school, I mean it's just absolutely shameful, I don't know whether this has more to do with Visa caps or just a complete reconstruction of the US educational system.
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