According to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), “U.S. based companies have a great need for those trained in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, but at least for right now, there are not enough Americans trained and ready to fill these jobs.” With this view in mind, Hatch supports legislation to allow more employers to import foreign workers to do STEM jobs under the H-1B program.
Fact Checker: This viewpoint is common among members of Congress, mainly because they accept without much questioning the claim of U.S. companies that they can’t find enough STEM workers. Much evidence, however, suggests otherwise.
One example is a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) which found that the U.S. has “more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations.” If indeed there were a shortage of STEM workers, by the economic law of supply and demand, wages in STEM fields should have risen. But as the EPI study notes, wages in STEM fields are flat.
Also it noted that many American graduates with degrees in STEM fields can’t find work, even as companies hire H-1B foreigners. As the authors of the study observe, “[I]n engineering U.S. colleges have historically produced about 50 percent more graduates than are hired into engineering jobs each year. . . . For computer science graduates employed one year after graduation . . . about half those who look for a job outside IT [information technology] say they did so because the career prospects were better elsewhere, and roughly a third because they couldn’t find a job in IT.” Overall, only half of U.S college STEM graduates get a job in STEM fields.
A very significant reason for the reduced job opportunities and stagnant wages in STEM is the large number of foreigners allowed to take these jobs. Companies prefer to hire them because, as noted in an article in The Washington Post (4/24/13), they make an estimated 20 percent less than U.S. workers.
The companies often maintain that they need H-1Bs because their fields require the very “best and brightest,” but the study notes 36 percent of IT workers don’t have a college degree, and of the 64 percent with degrees, only 38 percent have a computer science or math degree.
The STEM “shortage” is just an excuse for greedy companies to limit job opportunities for their countrymen while reaping higher profits. Some of these are the same companies that endorsed “free trade” agreements which eliminated much of our industrial base, and the middle class jobs it provided. But they said not to worry, because Americans could train or retrain for good jobs in IT and other STEM fields. Now, as more and more foreigners take those jobs, thanks to politicians like Hatch, the American Dream of a middle-class lifestyle will become a reality for fewer and fewer Americans.