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October 06, 2003


H1B visas have been slashed. In some personal correspondence godless thought that this was kind of ass-backwards (my words). After all, there are fewer H1B workers than unskilled legal & illegal immigrants. So what gives? On this blog we've talked about outsourcing a lot. But the fact is, service sector outsourcing has been 1) mostly in call center and low level coding 2) dwarfed by the decline in manufactoring employment.

But, most people in positions of power might have a relative or friend who is a IT worker, perhaps a senior programmer that couldn't break into management, etc., so these are the people getting the attention. As for unskilled workers, those in power would benefit from looser immigration laws, cheaper nannies, gardeners, construction workers, etc. And it seems entirely plausible that most lawmakers have no family members that work in menial occupations where they would compete with unskilled immigrants.

Posted by razib at 03:50 PM

Well, right now the drop in the number of H1B visas for next year doesn't seem too bad considering only about 70-something thousand were used this year out of 195,000. My guess is that if the demand gets really high in the next few years, they will be increased again. But demand won't increase for 2004.

Another interesting data is that the reduction in the H1B numbers because of the economy has hit Indians the hardest, more than their numbers would warrant (45-50%).

Posted by: Zack at October 6, 2003 06:42 PM

Given the fact that US Immigration is focused on maximizing the number of unskilled immigrants, the fact that H1-B visas were issued at all is commendable. But these Visa's are also heavily abused, with the motivation being largely to keep wages in check. There was a justification for H1-B's during the boom, but there is none at this time. Even many of the support groups for H1-B visa holders have admitted this. Go to any H1-B support site and you will see numerous postings of H1-B holders who have been fired or laid off, only to be replaced by another H1-B holder (more recently arriving). I think the issue with H1-B's is this: Were H1-B's meant to be immigrants or just guest labourers? Clearly the fact is ignored by all parties concerned. I think the Canadian immigration policy is much better and less prone to abuse by industry. Although Canadian Industry is now also demanding an H1-B style visa so that Canadian Companies can be more "competitive".

Posted by: Rahul Virmani at October 6, 2003 09:14 PM

rahul's point has been my beef with H1B's for the whole time i'm blogging-H1B's are a way for industry to basically re-work labor standards with a specific group of workers.

Posted by: razib at October 6, 2003 10:37 PM

IT layoffs are more likely to call their congress critter. Trailervolk, hey that chicken processing plant sucked anyway.

Posted by: RM at October 7, 2003 04:10 AM

American workers are a family that should be protected. It doesn't matter whether they are IT workers or unskilled laborers. This is one of the ideas behind a nation; that there is a group of people that a nation's laws protects against the interests of other people in other nations. I think we should get rid of the H1-B category entirely, except for people with exceptional skills.

Posted by: Unstoppable at October 7, 2003 12:48 PM

"H1B's are a way for industry to basically re-work labor standards with a specific group of workers"

Why should there even be labour standards in the first place, least of all for skilled workers?

Posted by: Jason Soon at October 7, 2003 06:17 PM

"This is one of the ideas behind a nation; that there is a group of people that a nation's laws protects against the interests of other people in other nations."

This is an idea which hopefully will die a quick death once the Western capitalist civ meme infects everyone and we longer need to be worried about screening out terrorists:)

Posted by: Jason Soon at October 7, 2003 07:22 PM


in a libertopia there wouldn't be "labor standards," but american workers can't usually just opt out of their "rights" to be more competitive with those who are excluded from those rights (exclusive of moving to a third world country). as i'm sure you know, the ordoliberal perspective emphasizes rule of law and fair play, etc. with multiple standards of law and rights in one country (some H1B does and a guest worker porgram promises), you are reverting back to a medieval regime where different classes of citizens receive different consideration.

Posted by: razib at October 8, 2003 10:52 AM