Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Best and Brightest"? Nope.

When corporate shills run their yaps about importing H1-B workers because they are "the best and brightest" the tendency is nod one's head. "Yup. We are America, and our industry should have the best."

And, of course, the Radio Yappers parrot the corporate shills' line, because they really don't know any better. But there has been research on that question, folks.

And the corporate shills are lying.

Norm Matloff, a Prof at the University of California-Davis, ran the numbers on H1-B people.

...I extended John Miano's LCA analysis in his 2007 CIS paper. He had shown that among the LCAs, the applications submitted by employers seeking permission to hire an H-1B, the vast majority were for the lower two of the four wage/experience levels defined by DOL

(Which is to say, the cheaper-wage group.)

My analysis was on the PERM data...[in PERM, the data for the labor certification process involved in employer-sponsored green cards, each record is definitely for a particular worker.] In addition, the PERM data show the nationality of the worker, whichturns out to be of significance.

What did Matloff find?

1) The vast majority of workers, 70% or so (somewhat more for some occupations, somewhat less for others) are in either Level I (defined by DOL as "routine tasks... limited if any exercise of judgment") or Level II ("modestly complex tasks requiring limited judgment"). Clearly, MOST ARE NOT HIRED AS INNOVATORS.

2) Contrary to the industry's claim that they import workers from Asia because "Johnny can't do math," the only countries with large percentages of Level IV workers--the real experts--are Canada and the UK.

Not surprisingly, age discrimination plays a part:

...the fact that most of the workers are at the two lowest levels also means that they are cheap. A couple of the people in the audience (one was the immigration lawyer who spoke later, and the other was a researcher who generally takes a pro-industry point of view) didn't understand this. They said, "Well, many of the H-1Bs are hired from U.S. university campuses, so naturally they're young. That's normal." Of course, they had it exactly backwards--it's not that the industry wants students, who happen to be young, but rather that the industry wants the young (thus cheap), who happen to be students.

Well, the H1-B's are young, and college grads, so they must be smart, no? After all, "job classifications" (above) don't necessarily mean much, do they?

...if industry's claims are true--that the H-1Bs are mostly outstanding talents and they are paid market wages--then their wages should be way above prevailing wage, right?

Matloff looked at the ratio of actual wage vs. prevailing wage to get an answer.

1) The median over the entire PERM set was 1.02. In other words, most employers are paying either prevailing wage or only a tiny bit above it. These workers ain't geniuses, folks.

2) Broken down by occupation, the corresponding values for software engineers and programmers were 1.02 and 1.01. Again, this demolishes the industry's "best and brightest" claim. The value for electrical engineers, 1.10, is a bit higher, but still not indicating that most of these people are Einsteins

3) I broke things down by country here too, and again it turned out that Canada and the UK--not India and China--are the ones sending us the people of above-average talent (though not Einsteins there either).

So: Industry generally hires H1-B folks for mundane tasks; they hire college grads because they are young (thus cheap), and the pay-scales certainly don't indicate that these hires are "the best and the brightest."

Bear that in mind the next time you hear all about the critical need for H1-B.

)Much, much more of Matloff's work is archived here:

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