Foreign tech workers are considering these places outside the U.S. instead
Since the tech boom in the early 2000s, the United States has been a major destination for the world’s top tech talent. Hundreds of thousands of workers have flocked to cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City to fill the tech industry’s immense need for software engineers, designers, and data scientists.
However, a recent survey suggests President Donald Trump’s stance on immigration might be leading foreign workers to take their skills elsewhere.
The findings come from a new data report published by international recruiter Hired. The company, which works with over 10,000 businesses and 1.5 million job seekers, undertook the survey in response to a pair of controversial executive orders Trump signed earlier this year. The first was announced just weeks after his election win and ushered in the suspension of immigration to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries. The second, known as “Hire American, Buy American,” saw him propose sweeping changes to the H-1B visa system, which makes it possible for foreign workers to find employment in the U.S.
According to its bank of interview requests, Hired noticed that there was a 60% decrease in requests from U.S.-based companies to foreign workers in Q4 of 2016, which was most likely due to the uncertainty surrounding Trump’s stance on immigration during the election. While this abated slightly in the new year, by Q2 2017, U.S. interest in foreign workers was still down by about 37 percent. And the trepidation appears to be mutual on both sides, as 40% of the 362 U.S.-based tech workers surveyed reported that they were considering relocating out of the country.
Nearly a third of these workers said they were thinking of moving to Canada, while 12% would opt for Germany and 10% said they’d like to resettle somewhere in Asia. The UK, a traditional hot spot for foreign workers, is facing a similar dilemma to the U.S. in the wake of Brexit.
“The primary consequence is less talent available to companies in the U.S., but the secondary consequence is that potential founders in the U.S. are starting to think about starting a company elsewhere,” Hired CEO Mehul Patel told Fortune.
In spite of the tension inspired by the Trump administration’s executive orders, the U.S. tech community as a whole continues to support open immigration policies with 81% of respondents agreeing that immigration brings innovation to the tech industry and 77% saying it brings necessary diversity to the workforce.
These numbers aren’t surprising given that more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants and that these companies employ over 10 million people worldwide. Some of the most recognizable and successful brands in the world — including Google, Apple, Budweiser, and AT&T — fall into this influential category.
The survey also revealed that many in the tech community believe the H-1B visa is highly flawed, with 44% of citizens and 64% of noncitizens stating that the system isn’t working. Since it was established in 1990, the law’s been plagued with controversy, with some saying it’s too restrictive while others argue that it displaces U.S. workers and lowers wages.
“I do agree that the H1B visa holders are taking some American jobs, not because they are more qualified, but because companies can pay them less to do the same work,” wrote one respondent. “Something needs to be done about the process whether it’s equal pay, a decreased number of H1B visas issued, or some other method.”
“The underlying premise of the system is flawed, but not the ‘entire system,’” wrote another. “The system needs to prioritize skilled independent workers who can make a difference in a wide variety of fields, not just tech.”
While it doesn’t seem likely that the U.S. will lose all its global tech talent overnight, the report suggests that if questions over the country’s openness to new immigrants persist, it’s very likely that foreign workers will look to settle elsewhere. And when one takes into account that countries like Canada and France are actively working to push policies that make themselves more amiable to immigrant populations, a shift is an all but foregone conclusion.
The views expressed are of the author.
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