Alan Greenspan is not a name I’d generally associate with the foreign-worker visa program or H-1Bs, but he recently testified to a U.S. senate committee on immigration and gave his take on how it affects wages and the economy.
And to sum it up, Greenspan seems out of touch.
Greenspan’s quotes, while measured, appear to be off the mark for the technology work force when you consider the realities of the current economy. Get a load of some of Greenspan’s comments (from Computerworld):
“Greenspan … said more skilled immigration was needed “as the economy copes with the forthcoming retirement wave of skilled Baby Boomers.” … Greenspan provided a list of reasons for increasing skilled competition. One in particular, would help fix a problem — the housing bubble — that grew on his watch as Fed chair. … Skilled workers from overseas “will, out of necessity, move into vacant housing units; the current glut of which is depressing prices of American homes,” said Greenspan.But what will likely be the most controversial aspect of Greenspan argument will be his call for more wage competition.. He said that increasing the numbers of skilled workers from overseas “would address the increasing concentration of income in this country.”“
I don’t know about you, but most Boomers I know are having to scrap their plans for retirement in the near future and find decent paying jobs to make up for the major hit their nest eggs have taken over the last year.
How will highly skilled workers from abroad fix that? What constitutes a highly skilled worker, anyway?
The connection of immigration to housing seems like a stretch given the volume of people that it would require to fill in housing vacancies–vacancies that exist because of the huge real estate bubble that has burst, a bubble that includes severe foreclosure rates and property value declines.
Highly skilled workers from other countries are going to solve this? Please explain, Obi-Alan Greenspan. Given the fairly compelling evidence of rampant fraud in H-1B visa use and of H-1Bs being used as a way for companies to bring in labor that is cheaper than a comparably competent U.S. work force, Greenspan seems to be out of touch.
Yes, immigration is and will continue to be an important aspect of an evolving U.S. technological economy. Global competition is a major factor here. But larger immigration policy and the abuse of H-1Bs do not make an apples to apples comparison, and when you endorse programs with major problems, you undercut the long-term goals you are trying to reach.
Despite the macro view, it seems like Greenspan might want to consider the highly skilled work force that already exists in this country that is made up of people willing to work for less than they used to with less health care, dwindling retirement packages and a real estate market that is more shelter than investment.