It’s an annual headline. Every April as the deadline for H-1B guest worker applications approaches there is the predictable news that far more applications are filed than there are visas available. And the usual interpretation – spun by the tech employers – is that the number of visas available is woefully inadequate to meet the industry’s demands. This year was no exception – 200,000 applications for 65,000 visas.
The annual headline is inevitably followed by the inevitable lament that the American tech industry can’t find qualified workers in this country and that it is being hamstrung by the “stingy” number of guest worker visas made available each year. For years, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has been disputing these self-serving industry claims. Now, a new Ford Foundation-funded report by the Kapor Center and the Harris Polling company confirms that the tech industry’s labor problems are not the result of a dearth of qualified workers, but their own dysfunctional work environments.
The Kapor report concludes that many workers are leaving their jobs with tech companies because “unfairness, in the form of everyday behavior (stereotyping, harassment, bullying, etc.) is a real and destructive part of the tech work environment, particularly affecting underrepresented groups and driving talent out the door.” These reprehensible (if not outright illegal) employment practices are costing the industry $16 billion a year in lost productivity, finds the report.
If the tech industry is having a difficult time finding qualified workers for available jobs in this country, it’s not because those workers do not exist here. It’s just that American workers don’t particularly like being stereotyped, harassed, and bullied – and well-educated and skilled workers often have other options. It also seems that many highly profitable companies would rather rely on beholden guest workers than reform the work cultures that are driving American workers away.