The Opponent: H-1Bs Pressure U.S. Wages

The value of the H-1B program isn’t only being debated in the world of office parks and cubicles. It’s a topic being argued in academia, as well, with the focus on the needs and merits of increasing the visa cap and enticing both American and foreign students to pursue STEM degrees here, particularly master’s and doctorates.

One of the most vocal opponents of the program is Computer Science Professor Norman Matloff of the University of California at Davis. He questions not only the intentions of employers, but also the reasons why academic institutions often work hard to increase caps.

The Special Report:

Here’s what he had to say when I sat down with him.

Why don’t more computer science and engineering majors, particularly those who are U.S. citizens, want to pursue advanced degrees?

What role do universities play in efforts to increase the H-1B cap, such as Stanford with its Gates Hall and Hewlett Hall?

If an employer is considering hiring H-1Bs because they’re skilled and young, why can’t they hire recent U.S. college graduates? They’re skilled and young, too.

Is the prevailing wage H-1Bs are paid a fair wage?

13 Responses to “The Opponent: H-1Bs Pressure U.S. Wages”

  1. Pretty much sums up so many reasons why so many people are disgusted with IT in the US.

    Speaking from personal experience, having worked both coasts of the US, 20+ on the east, the past 6 on the west here in SV, the salaries for FTEs are shockingly low, especially considering the extreme high cost of living here. Contract rates have finally come back up to 2007 levels, so contracting is hot right now. You can get great billing rates right now if you’re in hot demand, such as DevOps. You’ll need it to live comfortably here in SV, unless you need health insurance, and FTE is the only option for you.

    The average 2B2B apartment in the Bay Area comparable to other cities in the US in a suburban setting is going for a minimum of $2600, and in SF the baseline is even more extreme. at least $3200. This is 36K for rent. Is that FUBAR or what. So you then have companies wanting to attract people to SV, but they come back with this salary that is for Nebraska or some other low-cost place to live. People come here and want to buy a house. Really? Bring a truckload of cash you’re going to need it. The salary is not going to get you there.

    Isn’t it odd that startups and other tech companies want to do business or startup in one of the most expensive cities on earth? And a lot of them have put their start up not only in SF, but in the most expensive part of SF! WTF!! And then when you start working or interviewing with a lot of these startups you find them mostly packed with young foreigners, who, in a lot of cases only want more young foreigners. Experienced citizens need not apply. You can interview but we want kids from China or India. And we need you to know everything. Our young foreigners don’t need to know as much, we just need them to code till they drop.

    Most of the young ones from India have communication challenges, and are followers, they need a lot of help. And they are not experienced enough in the business to think outside the box. Why aren’t we taking the same chance with our own citizens? The idea of bringing people up through different levels of experience in the business is by far the most intelligent track that has ever worked since labor ever existed. Packing IT with inexperienced foreigners may save you money up front, but it baffles most of us with experience why you would want to build your products using people that have English language challenges, and little if any IT experience. Baffling.

    So, again, it’s all on Corporate America(tm) and the greed factor. It would be one thing to say that poor mom and pop can’t afford to pay really good salaries, but mom and pop couldn’t make it today in IT. IT is a game you play with lots of money. Judging by what we hear about corporations making record profits, most of us in the business have no sympathy for management that outsources to get cheap, inexperienced labor, and then insources guest workers to pay cheap wages. What did you really get for that? You put a lot of Americans out of work, and got your profits. But did you do anything for your own? No. Soon we won’t have much of a country to even compare with what we used to be. Nothing but a hollowed out shell full of uneducated homeless people.

    • Well instead of opposing H1bs, why dont you ask US govt to grant H1bs more independence. If visa is sponsored to an individual rather that a sponsoring company, the indentured servitude part will be taken care of and h1b visa holder will ask for more wages/compensation without worrying about getting deported etc. It will become a level playing field and only skillset will determine who get a job. Although I feel US citizens will be at an advantage due to their better communication skill and cultural awareness but most H1b visa holders will be happy to settle for that condition.

      • David

        More independence? These young H1Bs are inexperienced, many lie on their resumes to get positions, many of the recruiting companies flat out falsify resumes to get consideration, and you suggest more independence? No way! The program should be abolished. Companies have been outsourcing at low wages and have created huge problems. Look at the pharmaceutical industry. Most major pharma are under consent decree or warning. How is this possible? Did they forget how to make Tylenol after doing it for over 5 decades? No! The in sourced cheap labor, with false resumes and lack of experience. These foreigners were taught the buzz words and the results are worse quality, risk to the safety of the product, and enormous waste, fines, and rework. Frankly the IT industry doesn’t need the H1B program. One American can do the work load of 5 foreigners. It may be direct, but it’s the facts in the field. The number of qualified foreigners is so small that the program has done a huge disservice.

      • It’s not the job of the US to provide jobs for foreigners

        The H1B program exists to fill in the gaps the US has in it’s job market (if any) and the point is that’s not what it’s being used for.

        It’s being used to get cheap, malleable (do what we say or else) labor at the cost of jobs and wage suppression for native US Tech workers.

        Business benefit by H1B’s, Politicians benefit by getting contributions from Business, and Universities benefit in a similar fashion.

        This is nothing but corruption, if there were truly missing skillsets here then no one would be complaining.

        If the H1B program were stated more accurately it would be

        “Filling the pockets of politicians by allowing US businesses to obtain cheap wage slaves at the expense of US citizens”

      • In reality the system should be prejudiced towards our citizens, period, such as.

        If you can’t find a US citizen then you can offer a foreigner an H1B at a 25% higher wage than a US citizen is making in the same are with the same skill sets.

        The H1B holder is NOT required to work for the same company and can easily transfer to another

        If the H1B position that was filled is challenged by a qualified US citizen and after review by an independent panel is found to have falsified skills, be put in a position where the “Special” skills were not used, or if they failed to hire the US citizen which could have done the job for the same wage, then the company will award the challenger 10x the wage of the H1B holder and will lose all H1B privileges for a year.

        Put those three rules in place and the H1B program would collapse in on it’s own corruption

  2. Paulo

    This whole debate around the H1B Visa seems to be generating much more heat than light. Everybody is pretty sure that hiring H1Bs is part of an evil plot to bring down the wages of american-born workers by bringing in (from other countries) people who are willing to work for less. And along these lines, the IT sector’s wages as whole are surely coming down, bit by bit. Blame it on the H1B Visa program, of course.
    But, Dawn Kawamoto also reports that “Tech Salaries Rise to Highest Levels in a Decade” (
    So, what gives? Where is the truth?

    • It is an evil plot no doubt. US Employees’ income has declined, except for C-level “superstars” who have proved more and more they are not worth the huge payouts they get for either running or ruining companies. Where is the “equity participation” for tech workers? And I don’t mean worthless stock option nonsense, or bonus plans, that usually amount to little and more often than not do nothing to incentivize work product.

      People that are doing the work need to know that it’s not just a game for the top-end jerkoffs that come in, and make a few delegations of instructions to subordinates, and then give the people that actually did the work some kind of real compensation for that effort above and beyond a paycheck. IT workers are waking up to that. I could care less about a bonus plan or stock options. I want real cash, a real salary commensurate with my experience, and I want compensation that rewards me as much as top management.

      We’re seeing even this week how out of touch corporate america is with the way they see labor in Bangladesh. It’s shameful. H1-B visas are a reflection of a nation and how they value their own people vs other nations. It IS evil and it is shameful.

      We should be educating our children half as much as they are doing in Asia, and other countries, where they “get it” on market economics. Visa programs that undermine the strength of a nation ARE EVIL, end of story.

    • It doesn’t have to be an evil plot.

      Businesses always look for ways to cut costs and increase inefficiencies. If you have a budget for X and you can get 2 US citizen, or 3 foreign born employees, and as a benefit you lock in the 3 employees that your going to be spending a whole lot of money on then of course you pick the second option.

      The point is that the H1B program was created to fill in gaps of skills that are in short supply, not get cheaper labor at the cost of jobs for it’s citizens.

      The program needs to be strongly prejudiced towards US citizens with heavy penalties for non-compliance and or corruption. I really don’t understand how any average citizen would have issues with that.

      I can see why businesses won’t like it, I can see how politicians and universities don’t profit from it, but I can’t see how tilting the playing field towards people that live here and have deep roots can be seen as “Wrong” by anyone

  3. Fred Bosick

    Thank you for posting this!

    I feel DICE, as well as other job boards, make good money posting repeated ads from employers for impossibly skilled people knowing that it’s only a cover to ship in hordes of manual cramming 3rd world derived workers. Whatever DICE charges for ads is cheap insurance for companies to avoid added scrutiny.

    “We posted the job for a year but no good ‘murricans showed up!”

    Thanks for trying to be evenhanded in your coverage of the debate. This guy was devastating, and he brought up points I didn’t even realize.

    • I find the list of “Must Haves” pretty crazy as well. Backend, Frontend, Design, Analytics, Scalability etc.

      I have met a lot of people that can talk a good game on that kind of stack, very few that really understand it, and to date no one that is an expert in production level experience on all of it.

      It’s analogous to asking for a practicing brain surgeon, anesthesiologist, heart surgeon, nurse, operating room technician, CATSCAN operator, hospital administrator, building maintenance supervisor and parking attendant, with a minimum of 10 years in all of them.

      It’s fairly silly on the surface, and I know for a fact that most of those jobs end up being fairly narrow and restrictive in practice.

  4. This professor hit most of the nails on the head with a few things left out

    Immobile vs. Mobile workers, but it goes beyond that, if you are immobile you will do what you are told because you have limited options. Don’t like 80 hours a week, too bad for you sucker!

    Culture. It’s gotten to he point now that middle and upper management are being run in some cases by foreigners that would rather hire their own, for all of the stated reasons, cheaper, easily manipulated etc, but also because they simply are more comfortable with them.

    Big business and both parties are selling Americans out, business for the stated reasons, politicians because they get kickbacks, and the same for Universities etc.