A technology based lobby group in US, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) wants United States Congress to drastically raise the annual cap on H-1B visas and give permanent residency to foreign nationals who graduate from U.S. colleges.
An additional demand they had was related to backing trade policies which give companies unfettered access to the global market but I am not able to make much of it. Why will the US government restrict companies from doing business across the world? Unless of course the country in question is Iran or Cuba etc. (Thats what I thought initially but check out the analysis and answers below).
One interesting fact the lobby group quoted while making their argument was that U.S. software industry is larger than the food processing industry in terms of revenue. More bytes than bites!
The permanent residency pitch would find an immediate favor with all those aliens, including me, working in US for the past couple of years but still struggling for that elusive Green Card.
The lobby group has released a report containing variety of economic data to backup their demands. As per the lobby group, software vendors and digital content providers employed about 2.7 million people in 2006. This number is a net gain of over 400,000 jobs from the 1997 level, which is about 17% increase in the head count. You can download the report for in depth reading from here.
Considering the US economy woes – housing bubble, worst home sales in years, sliding stock market, slashing of interest rates, not to forget the depreciating value of US dollar (even the Canadians cost more!), the report and accompanying demands couldn’t have been released at the worst time period.
However the lobby group’s president is quite adamant in his demands that maintaining industry’s current level of growth will require immigration reform. I quite really don’t understand what immigration has to do with this , more workers can be called in by raising the cap. But I’ll be the last to look one to peep into the gift horse mouth. (Not that the horse has materialized yet).
Don’t get me wrong, being on a skilled worker visa here, I am all for granting them permanent residency. But for reasons which are more sound and valid.
The group additionally reports that the median salary paid in this sector during 2006 was $75,400. (If you are a tech worker, use this to measure where you stand). But what you should know is that this amount is 78% higher than the median wage in other comparative sectors. I am not going to hang my reputation on line here but thats precisely what SIIA has to say.
The numbers cited by SIIA are based on statistics from government reports and, consequently, tend to be one or two years old. But the intent of such reports from trade groups often is to add weight to their congressional policy initiatives. Quite obvious by now.
Ron Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, called the SIIA’s report “a defensive document” in an e-mail response to questions about it. From what I have read of Hira, he advocates stricter controls against foreign workers in the industry
Hira makes a point when he says that a better comparison than measuring the U.S. software industry against other sectors is to look at the growth rates of the large offshore outsourcing companies vs. the growth of software jobs in the U.S. “I think everyone will be taken aback,” he wrote. “The growth of IT labor demand in the U.S. is a pittance compared to the explosive growth in India.” I can testify to this having worked in both the countries.
Trade barriers is another issue where SIIA is trying to pitch hard. According to the lobby, European Union and countries in other regions are placing what amounts to a “patchwork quilt” of restrictions that impede the flow of data — for instance, limiting the ability of companies to store information about overseas customers on systems in the U.S. The trade group would like to see some standardization of such restrictions.
Fair enough but privacy is a touchy subject. If you place American user data in some storage outside the country, lets say China, what if it gets stolen or their govt gets hold of it. Chew over it.
The original article can be read from here.