What Bill Gates Didn't Say: H-1B Limits Will Lead To More Outsourcing - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
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3/13/2007
04:46 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary
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What Bill Gates Didn't Say: H-1B Limits Will Lead To More Outsourcing

Bill Gates last week asked Washington to up the supply of H-1B visas available to U.S. companies. He failed to mention that Microsoft and other American tech companies will ship hundreds of thousands of more jobs overseas if the visa cap isn't raised.

Bill Gates last week asked Washington to up the supply of H-1B visas available to U.S. companies. He failed to mention that Microsoft and other American tech companies will ship hundreds of thousands of more jobs overseas if the visa cap isn't raised.Here's a fact: U.S. tech companies in the years ahead are going to dramatically increase the percentage of foreign-born professionals on their payrolls.

If you believe the industry, it's because they can't find enough domestic IT pros to fill their needs. If you believe groups like the Programmers Guild, it's because they want to replace expensive American workers with lower-paid foreigners.

Truth is, the why doesn't matter. The globalization of America's technology workforce already is happening and it will continue to do so -- at an increasing rate.

I can state that, confidently, simply by knowing that American tech companies want to hire huge numbers of foreign workers, and that huge numbers of foreign workers long to be in the employ of American tech companies. In the end, the market always finds a way to bring together willing parties to a transaction. That's true for gamblers and casinos, hookers and johns, and boozers and bars.

And it's true for American tech vendors and foreign IT pros living in burgeoning countries like India and China. Businesses will simply find a way around the immigration version of blue laws.

To wit, in the absence of U.S immigration reform, companies like Microsoft will simply accelerate the pace at which they are building out their already substantial offshore operations.

And in the highly unlikely event that Congress places limits on offshore outsourcing, these companies actually have a third option: they can simply relocate their headquarters outside of the U.S. and then hire whomever they like.

Think that's far-fetched? IBM last year relocated its entire purchasing operation from upstate New York to China -- chief purchasing officer included -- to get closer to its supply base. And earlier this week, oil industry services company Halliburton confirmed that it's moving its HQ from Houston to Dubai.

Are such scenarios really preferable to letting a few hundred thousand more tech workers into the U.S.?

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