NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Relying On High-Skill Immigrant Workers

July 13, 1999

Labor is scarce in industries all across the United States these days -- but nowhere more so that in high-tech industries. This sector has added more than 1 million net new jobs since 1993. Yet unemployment rates for information-technology workers are below 2 percent.

So high-tech industries have turned to highly-skilled workers from abroad.

  • Spending on information technologies has risen steadily since 1992 and now accounts for more than half of total business spending on producer-durable equipment.
  • The Commerce Department estimates that the nation will need at least 1.3 million new info-tech workers over the next decade to create new systems -- and more will be needed to operate them.
  • Less than one year after Congress doubled the number of visas for skilled foreign workers to 115,000, the quota has been used up.
  • A recent study by the University of California at Berkeley's Annalee Saxenian demonstrates that such immigrants have been a major source of new jobs and wealth creation -- bringing with them creativity, capital and links to global markets.

Today, immigrants account for at least one-third of the scientific and engineering work force of Silicon Valley and occupy senior executive positions in at least one-quarter of its new technology companies.

Many have advanced degrees in computer science and engineering -- fields in which the number of degrees granted by U.S. universities to American students has been declining.

Source: Laura D'Andrea Tyson (University of California - Berkeley), "Open the Gates Wide to High-Skill Immigrants," Business Week, July 5, 1999.


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