More Skilled Workers Would Be Great

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
March 21 2013 3:50 PM

We Don't Need More Skilled Workers, But Getting Some Would Be Nice

Companies that like to important skilled foreign workers via the H-1 B visa system have a tendency to engage in extravagant rhetoric about a "shortage" of skilled immigrants that practically invites headlines like Suzy Khimm's "Do we need more skilled foreign workers?" The answer is no, we don't. Life will go on without more skilled foreign workers. But we should get more anyway.

The reason is that when skilled immigrants come to the United States their productivity increases more than sixfold. That's an awful lot and it creates a huge surplus that it's absurd to just leave lying around on the floor. Claw some of that surplus back as a tax or fee and spending it on addressing side effects if you want, but you almost never see the option of that scale of productivity gains.

Advertisement

None of which is to say that the H-1 B visa system doesn't have some problems. Most notably, I'd say it puts way too much power in employers' hands. Give skilled workers temporary permission to work in the United States and let them work for whoever they want to. The current system makes your permission to work in the US conditional on working for a particular company. That lets the employer capture a huge share of the surplus and makes the situation unnecessarily problematic for complementary native-born workers. 

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.