Aquarium Blog

Friday, July 01, 2005

I don't agree with Bill Gates on H-1B Visas

I read a couple of months ago about Bill Gates remarks on the H-1B visas cap in the USA. While I can understand how he and other technology industry leaders got to think this way, I strongly disagree.

Like in many countries, in USA there seem to be plenty of people that think that foreign workers are stealing their jobs (look at the comments on the ZDNet's article for a sample). Most seem to feel fear, anger and hate. I don't agree with them either.

I am not American, and I am not thinking about going to work to USA. I am currently a foreign worker in the wrong country I would say, because here wages are very low compared to the cost of living.

My problem with H-1B visas is that it engenders the status of a second rate citizen, somebody that needs to comply to whatever her/his sponsor wants. It is not easy to switch to a different job if you go to the USA this way. Whatever mistake you make, or whatever changes with your job status (the company breaks, or your job requirements change, for instance), you will probably need to leave the country.

So this creates a deep distortion in the labor market. H-1B workers do not compete with American workers. They come from the beginning for lower wages that Americans would not accept. Corporations do not need to keep them happy like they need to do with the nationals. They have bargained for quasi-slaves instead. In my view, in this area the power of corporations has gained terrain over basic rights and law.

It rings an alarm to see Gates, an otherwise true philanthropist in my opinion, saying that he would eliminate the cap. He is, I think, defending the interest of his corporation over what is right.

I would say instead, eliminate the H-1B Visas altogether. And, if American tech corporations want access to the global market pool, replace H-1B for something that convert temporary foreign workers in immigrant workers and first rate citizens under the law. This will level the playing field, at least inside the borders.

So foreign workers will tend expect a higher income, closer to what natives have. And they will switch companies at will. There will be true competition.

American workers, and for the case, people from all developed countries in which income is over the average, will be still exposed to the uncertainties of off-shoring. This is the reason they need to support policies in their countries that help leveling the playing field all around the world.

This is a serious problem. They should act today or their children will face a very hard laboral environment.

Free your mind of fear, anger and hate. Stop the double standards. Welcome empathy.

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