Some H-1B workers in the US earn a pretty packet, but at what cost?

30 Mar 2015

There’s a big political debate in the US over the amount of short-term skilled workers who receive visas, along with some eye-catching salaries.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt is one of the better-known backers of expanding the amount of H-1B visas allowed each year, with an already significant looking 65,000 not enough to sate his desire for more skilled workers from overseas.

The logic argued in favour of such an expansion is quite basic and makes sense: Tech giants want to hire the best of the best, and to do that they want to hire from all over the world. Thus, more H-1Bs mean more opportunities to do just that.

“We take very, very smart people, bring them into the country, give them a diploma and kick them out where they go on to create companies that compete with us,” says Schmidt.

Indeed Kiran Dhillan, senior editor for FindTheBest, an analytics company, wrote of the significant salaries that the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft pay to their H-1B workers in a recent article in TechCrunch.

She points out that the likes of software engineers and financial analysts can make incredible salaries (particularly those hired by Facebook), averaging well above US$100,000 a year – financial analysts in Facebook making over 50pc more than that.

This stacks up to what certain CEOs are arguing. To get the best you need to pay the best, and often the best are abroad.

However it’s not entirely convincing, as many wary people are arguing in the US. While those companies claim to want the best, many, it appears, want the cheapest.

The Los Angeles Times alleges that Southern California Edison is exploiting the H-1B system, indirectly hiring overseas software engineers at far less cost than hiring Americans.

Indeed FindTheBest’s own data on the subject shows the vast majority of H-1B applications are for jobs paying between US$60-US$80,000 a year, not really touching on the top end of skilled workers that the US is apparently so short of.

It’s a tricky issue because the explosion in tech employers means not everyone can establish clearly what areas are stuck for staff – with STEM subjects apparently a vacuum.

However if this is an area so short of workers, presumably the thousands of staff let go by Microsoft last year found new jobs immediately.

Dollars on a keyboard image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt
By Gordon Hunt

Gordon joined Silicon Republic in October 2014 as a journalist. Unafraid of heights or spiders, Gordon spends most of his time avoiding conversations about music, appreciating even the least creative pun and rueing the day he panicked when meeting Paul McGrath. His favourite thing on the internet remains the ‘Random Article’ link on Wikipedia.

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