Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why STEM is TE: H-1B edition

Via Beryl Benderly of Science Careers, a nice Congressional Research Service report by Ruth Ellen Wasem on the current state of the H-1B visa program with some informative numbers and graphs:
"Over the years, a noteworthy portion of H-1B beneficiaries have worked in STEM occupations. In FY2010, the most recent year for which detailed data on H-1B beneficiaries (i.e., workers renewing their visas as well newly arriving workers) are available, almost 91,000 H-1B workers were employed in computer-related occupations, and they made up 47% of all H-1B beneficiaries that year, as Figure 5 indicates. Architectural and engineering occupations as well as occupations in education were tied at a distant second with 10% each. Administrative occupations followed with 9%, and health and medicine occupations were 8% of the 192,990 H-1B beneficiaries. The total number of H-1B beneficiaries reported for FY2010 (192,990) and shown in Figure 5 was less than the number of approved H-1B petitions approved that year as depicted in Figure 4."
Credit: Congressional Research Service, annotated by Chemjobber
There's a lot of talk about H-1B visa holders affecting the chemistry job market; I suspect this is evidence that it's not particularly large (what percentage of the 2% of 192,990 (3,859) visa holders are in chemistry? Hard to say.)

But what this graph really tells me is that the H-1B visa program disproportionately affects the technology and engineering fields more than science and mathematics. Yet more evidence that when politicians and the media talk about STEM, they're really talking about TE.  

10 comments:

  1. What percentage of STEM jobs are in the math and physical sciences field? How does that compare to the 2% figure presented above? I understand the data to answer this question might now be available, but is there some estimate?

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  2. I think you misunderstand. These are occupations of H-1B for people whose visas were approved in FY 2010. Since H-1B is valid for 3 years you really to multiply this number by 3, or better yet - get the data for 2009, and 2008.

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  3. With very high unemployment. There is no reason we should have this H1B program. If you look at the chart, you will see that there is not alot granted to Doctors, Dentists, Pharmacists, MBA's, etc.
    The only reason this program exists is to increase supply/lower demand and lower wages. Basic economics. If we eliminated this program, scientists would be paid a respectable salary and not have the high unemployment that it does.

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    1. Corporate America dont want that. The reason they outsourced most of chemical/manufacturing jobs to 3rd world countries is because of the cheap labour cost. Now they want to flood the market with great supply of skilled H-1B visa to suppress wages here and turn us to a 3rd world country. Corporate greed is putting a squeeze on middle class and discourage young people from pursuing science and engineer education.

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    2. I agree with both of these comments, even one H-1B visa holder is one too many. I'll say one thing for the AMA, they actually advocate for their members unlike the ACS. Back in the late 90's they were able to get Congress to substantially restrict the amount of foreign doctors entering the U.S. when they saw their wages start to slip. In contrast the ACS solution is to call for more globalism.

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    3. Whoa...so healthcare costs were going to go down and they stopped that!

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    4. Anon @7:27 pm. You are so clearly a foreigner (hint - in this country we spell it "labor"), yet you are complaining about H-1B. I applaud you.

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    5. Businesses dont want to hire skilled professional at a market price and they dont want to invest in training. What they really want is a large labor pool of candidates with specific skills who can work from day one, take home an entry salary, and preferably with little to no benefit. If they cant find such people, they will go around crying shortage of skilled workers and demand more H-1B visas.

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  4. Although the large pool of international talent has affected my job prospects negatively, I truly believe that there are a lot of immigrants getting severely screwed over by the American educational system. As job prospects for Americans decline and people drop out of grad programs because they see the writing on the wall, universities just fill those spots with foreigners. Many of these people would never have the same opportunity in their own country and come to the US with the idea that they will be able to get a good education and find a good job (our own politicians are happy to plant this idea). Little do they know that very few companies offer visa support any more and they will more than likely get stuck in a cycle of postdocs that will kill their job prospects or be jettisoned back to their home country when they can't secure anything.

    My postdoc institute was absolutely brimming with international postdocs, and most of them had been there obscenely long or were doing a 2nd (or 3rd) postdoc. The PIs were more than happy to continue propagating their indefinite stays by various means, most of them highly unethical.

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    1. Our lab shares space at a major medical school in the US. There are about 25 postdocs, grad students, and techs all together. There's one American (me), one Korean, and the rest Chinese. It's biology, which does take a little longer than chem for a postdoc, but everyone else is on postdoc 2 or 3 or in year 6 of #1 with no signs of leaving anytime soon.

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