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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Have Skills, Will Travel

Gary Becker, Nobel laureate in economics, Professor of Economics and Sociology at the University of Chicago, and a Senior Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution argues for increased legal immigration of skilled workers:

Give Us Your Skilled Masses, by Gary S. Becker, Commentary, WSJ: With border security and proposals for a guest-worker program back on the front page, it is vital that the U.S. ... does not overlook legal immigration. The number of people allowed in is far too small... Only 140,000 green cards are issued annually, with the result that scientists, engineers and other highly skilled workers often must wait years before receiving the ticket allowing them to stay permanently in the U.S. An alternate route for highly skilled professionals ... has been temporary H-1B visas... But Congress foolishly cut the annual quota of H-1B visas in 2003 ... to well under 100,000. The small quota of 65,000 for the current fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 is already exhausted!

This is mistaken policy. ... Skilled immigrants such as engineers and scientists are in fields not attracting many Americans, and they work in IT industries ... which have become the backbone of the economy. ... These immigrants create jobs and opportunities for native-born Americans of all types and levels of skills. ... The annual quota should be multiplied many times beyond present limits, and there should be no upper bound on the numbers from any single country. Such upper bounds place large countries like India and China ... at a considerable and unfair disadvantage -- at no gain to the U.S.

To be sure, the annual admission of a million or more highly skilled workers ... would lower the earnings of the American workers they compete against. The opposition from competing American workers is probably the main reason for the sharp restrictions on the number of immigrant workers admitted today. That opposition is understandable, but does not make it good for the country as a whole. Doesn't the U.S. clearly benefit if ... India's government spends a lot on the highly esteemed Indian Institutes of Technology to train scientists and engineers who leave to work in America? ...

Experience also shows that if America does not accept greatly increased numbers of highly skilled professionals, they might go elsewhere ... [where] they may compete against us through outsourcing and similar forms of international trade in services. The U.S. would be much better off by having such skilled workers become residents and citizens -- thus contributing to our productivity, culture, tax revenues and education rather than to the productivity and tax revenues of other countries. I do ... advocate that we be careful about admitting students and skilled workers from countries that have produced many terrorists... But the legitimate concern about admitting terrorists should not be allowed, as it is now doing, to deny or discourage the admission of skilled immigrants who pose little terrorist threat.

Nothing in my discussion should be interpreted as arguing against the admission of unskilled immigrants. ... But if the number to be admitted is subject to ... limits, there is a strong case for giving preference to skilled immigrants... Other countries, too, should liberalize their policies toward the immigration of skilled workers. I particularly think of Japan and Germany... America still has a major advantage in attracting skilled workers, because this is the preferred destination of the vast majority of them. So why not take advantage of their preference to come here, rather than force them to look elsewhere?

I agree. If the people in the world with the most skills and talent want to come here, let them.

    Posted by on Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 12:36 AM in Economics, International Trade, Unemployment | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (48)


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