Decreasing American Unemployment by Hiring Foreign Workers

In the U.S., the topic of employing foreign-born workers can cause a bit of a divide, with some leaning more for it and others against it. For those who may oppose employing these workers, it often comes down to the belief that they are taking jobs away from U.S.-born citizens. Recent research, however, finds that this is not necessarily the case.

The H-1B visa program aims to offer employment to foreign professionals whose occupations call for highly-educated candidates. Each year, the U.S. makes 65,000 visas available to foreign-born workers, with an additional 20,000 for those who hold a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. university.

This may seem like enough visas, especially considering the recent high levels of unemployment in the U.S., but research shows that increasing the number of visas for foreign-born workers would actually increase the total number of jobs. In fact, estimates show more than 230,000 jobs could have been created for U.S. born workers between 2007 and 2008 had the hundreds of thousands of visas that were to be put in a lottery not been rejected. Looking ahead, it is estimated that 1.3 million new jobs may be created by 2045 if the numbers of H-1B visas per year is increased.

The reason for this? Many of these jobs are in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Not only is unemployment is extremely low in STEM occupations, showing an unmet need for labor, but the economic impact of these knowledge jobs increases both the overall number of jobs and the GDP. According to a report prepared by Regional Economic Models, Inc., an increase in H-1B visas could create an estimated 1.3 million new jobs and add around $158 billion to the GDP by 2045.

It is not solely STEM jobs that are calling for H-1B employees. Along with research universities, many companies across the country have a demand for these workers — companies like Caterpillar Inc., Bank of America and the Mayo Clinic to name a few. And with more H-1B petitions comes more wage growth. According to the American Immigration Council, the Computer Systems Design and Related Services category saw a “5.5 percent wage growth since 1990” and a “7.0 percent wage growth since 2009.”

With issues such as unemployment at the forefront of many Americans’ minds, perhaps its time to change how we look at foreign-born workers. Allowing for more H-1B visas isn’t a complete solution, but it would definitely create more positive effects for all involved.

Category: H-1B, Immigration reform Comment »


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