Itis widely acknowledged that President Trump’s “America First” platform played asignificant part in his success at the polls during the 2016 election, ashis campaign seized on widespread discontent with the political status quoamong working-class Americans.
But thisisolationist position – which was further manifested by the “BuyAmerican and Hire American” Executive Order issued on April 18, 2017 – mayhave a lasting negative effect on many sectors within the U.S. economy thathave long depended on their ability to hireforeign workers in order to meet their workforce needs.
Tech Sector Looks to India
Thetechnologysector in particular has frequently utilized employment-based visa programsin order to address recruitment needs with highly-skilledforeign workers. However, analarming trend has emerged in recent years, with tech industry behemoths suchas Dell and IBM sharply increasing their overseas workforce, particularly inIndia.
InJanuary, Dell announced plans to increase the number of workers in its Indian-based R&Ddivision by 15 to 20 percent before the end of 2017. A recent article from The New York Times reported that IBM now has 130,000 employees in India, more than anyother country in the world, including the U.S. It was also noted that IBM is one of the most frequent users of the H-1B visa programthat the Trump Administration is looking to limit to a small portion of themost highly-paid workers.
Whilepromoting the policy of “Hire American” may make for a great campaign soundbite,it fails to address an all-too-common scenario faced by many employers: What ifthere is a shortage of qualified American workers for the specific type of positionsto be filled? According to a recent report issued by the National Foundation for American Policy, 81 percent ofelectrical engineering students pursuing graduate-level degrees in the U.S. areinternational students. Similarly, 79percent of graduate students in the field of computer science do not holdcitizenship or permanent residence in the U.S.
Withoutrobust businessimmigration policies that respond to the legitimate needs of employers, companiesbased in the U.S. face falling victim to the severe “brain drain” that takesplace as these STEM graduates return to their home countries or seekopportunities in other countries proactively looking to attract their talents.
Employer-Friendly Countries Poised to Win Big
Several major Canadian cities recently highlighted their country’semployer-friendly visa programs – which include a two-week turnaround for tech workers– when submittingbids to host the new Amazon facility at the expense of rival bids from citiesin the U.S.
There areundoubtedly a multitude of factors that may cause companies to expand theirfootprint overseas, including reduced overhead costs and taxconsiderations. It is also worthpointing out that the widespread outsourcing of jobs overseas is a trend thatwas already in place several years before President Trump’s inauguration.
Bycontinuing to promote the idea that restrictive immigration policies will createopportunities for native workers waiting eagerly in the wings, the U.S. riskscutting off its nose to spite its face. Inattempting to put “America First”, the President may be putting the U.S.further down the list of desirable countries for both established and startupcompanies within the technology sector in today’s globally competitivemarketplace.
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