Is the H-1B visa program mostly a way to import cheaper IT talent from abroad? Yes, at least as practiced by the top IT labor outsourcing firms according to an article posted today on the IEEE Spectrum.
Written by Prachi Patel, the IEEE Spectrum article, New Data Hammers Home Problems with H-1Bs and Outsourcing Firms, reports that the dominant IT labor outsourcing firms pay less to foreign workers than prevailing U.S. salaries for the same functions. Here’s a brief excerpt:
“The top 20 employers took 37 percent of the approved visas. The top five were all IT outsourcing firms: Cognizant Tech Solutions, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, Accenture, and Wipro. All together, these companies took 60,000 visas.
“The average salary of H-1B visa holders was $91,000. But top outsourcing firms paid well below this number, with TCS paying as little as $72,000 on average.
“Non-outsourcing tech companies seem to be more fair. Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, and Google, for instance, pay their H-1B workers average wages of over $120,000. These higher-paying companies generally hire more workers with Master’s degrees, while most outsourcing firms hire mainly Bachelor’s degree holders.”
The debate around H-1B visa program for IT labor has long been contentious. Employers argue they are unable to find needed skills within the U.S. According to the IEEE Spectrum article Microsoft, for instance, pays H-1B software developers $126,000 on average, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the average salary for that job at $132,000. Ron Hira, professor of political science at Howard University is quoted, “Any firm that is able to pay less money is going to pay less money.”