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[Congressional Record: September 13, 2000 (Extensions)]
[Page E1454-E1455]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

                            H-1B VISA ISSUE


                         HON. DANA ROHRABACHER

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                      Tuesday, September 12, 2000

  Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Speaker, I Would like to submit for my 
colleagues an article that recently appeared in the New York Times. 
With all the recent discussion about the H-1B visa issue, I thought 
this article was not only timely, but quite effective at unveiling the 
truth behind all the rhetoric I've heard. In fact, I believe this 
article succinctly captures the reasons why Congress should not raise 
the H-1B visa limit.

                [From the New York Times, Sept. 6, 2000]

                     Questioning the Labor Shortage

                         (By Richard Rothstein)

       To alleviate apparent shortages of computer programmers, 
     President Clinton and Congress have agreed to raise a quota 
     on H-1B's, the temporary visas for skilled foreigners. The 
     annual limit will go to 200,000 next year, up from 65,000 
     only three years ago.
       The imported workers, most of whom come from India, are 
     said to be needed because American schools do not graduate 
     enough young people with science and math skills. Microsoft's 
     chairman, William H. Gates, and Intel's chairman, Andrew S. 
     Grove, told Congress in June that more visas were only a 
     stopgap until education improved.
       But the crisis is a mirage. High-tech companies portray a 
     shortage, yet it is our memories that are short: only 
     yesterday there was a glut of science and math graduates.
       The computer industry took advantage of that glut by 
     reducing wages. This discouraged youths from entering the 
     field, creating the temporary shortages of today. Now, taking 
     advantage of a public preconception that school failures have 
     created the problem, industry finds a ready audience for its 
     demands to import workers.
       This newspaper covered the earlier surplus extensively. In 
     1992, it reported that I in 5 college graduates had a job not 
     requiring a college degree. A 1995 article headlined ``Supply 
     Exceeds Demand for Ph.D.'s in Many Science Fields'' cited 
     nationwide unemployment of engineers, mathematicians and 
     scientists. ``Overproduction of Ph.D. degrees,'' it noted, 
     ``seems to be highest in computer science.''
       Michael S. Teitelbaum, a demographer who served as vice 
     chairman of the Commission on Immigration Reform, said in 
     1996 that there was ``an employer's market'' for technology 
     workers, partly because of post-cold-war downsizing in 
       In fields with real labor scarcity, wages rise. Yet despite 
     accounts of dot-com entrepreneurs' becoming millionaires, 
     trends in computer technology pay do not confirm a need to 
     import legions of programmers.
       Salary offers to new college graduates in computer science 
     averaged $39,000 in 1986 and had declined by 1994 to $33,000 
     (in constant dollars). The trend reversed only in the late 
       The West Coast median salary for experienced software 
     engineers was $71,000 in 1999, up only 10 percent (in 
     constant dollars) from 1990. This pay growth of about I 
     percent a year suggests no labor shortage.
       Norman Matloff, a computer science professor at the 
     University of California, contends that high-tech companies 
     create artificial shortages by refusing to hire experienced 
     programmers. Many with technology degrees no longer work in 
     the field. By age 50, fewer than half are still in the 
     industry. Luring them back requires higher pay.
       Industry spokesmen say older programmers with outdated 
     skills would take too long to retrain. But Dr. Matloff 
     counters by saying that when they urge more H-1B visas, 
     lobbyists demonstrate a shortage by pointing to vacancies 
     lasting many months. Companies could train older programmers 
     in less time than it takes to process visas for cheaper 
     foreign workers.
       Dr. Matloff says that in addition to the pay issue, the 
     industry rejects older workers because they will not work the 
     long hours typical at Silicon Valley companies with youthful 
     ``singles'' styles. Imported labor, he argues, is only a way 
     to avoid offering better conditions to experienced 
     programmers. H-1B workers, in contrast, cannot demand higher 
     pay: visas are revoked if workers leave their sponsoring 
       As for young computer workers, the labor market has 
     recently tightened, with rising wages, because college 
     students saw earlier wage declines and stopped majoring in 
     math and science. In 1996, American colleges awarded 25,000 
     bachelor's degrees in computer science, down from 42,000 in 
       The reason is not that students suddenly lacked 
     preparation. On the contrary, high school course-taking in 
     math and science, including advanced placement, had climbed. 
     Further, math scores have risen; last year 24 percent of 
     seniors who took the SAT scored over 600 in math. But only 6 
     percent planned to major in computer science, and many of 
     these cannot get into college programs.
       The reason: colleges themselves have not yet adjusted to 
     new demand. In some places, computer science courses are so 
     oversubscribed that students must get on waiting lists as 
     high school juniors.

[[Page E1455]]

       With a time lag between student choice of majors and later 
     job quests, high schools and colleges cannot address short-
     term supply and demand shifts for particular professions. 
     Such shortages can be erased only by raising wages to attract 
     those with needed skills who are now working in other 
     fields--or by importing low-paid workers.
       For the longer term, rising wages can guide counselors to 
     encourage well-prepared students to major in computer science 
     and engineering, and colleges will adjust to rising demand. 
     But more H-1B immigrants can have a perverse effect, as their 
     lower pay signals young people to avoid this field in future, 
     keeping the domestic supply artificially low.