Thursday, December 28, 2017

How Important Are Foreign-Born Workers to IT?

Foreign-born workers are a large share of the information technology (IT) labor force in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics examines just how large, particularly in what it calls "creative IT professions," which it defines as computer scientists and systems analysts, network systems analysts, web developers, computer programmers, software developers, and computer hardware engineers. The BLS analysis begins with the big picture—the foreign-born share of the labor force as a whole, then focuses on the foreign-born share of all IT jobs, and finally on the foreign-born share of creative IT jobs. Here are the findings...

  • Foreign-born workers accounted for 17 percent of the total U.S. labor force in 2014 (up from 7 percent in 1980). 
  • Foreign-born workers accounted for 24 percent of workers in all IT occupations in 2014 (up from 7 percent in 1980). 
  • Foreign-born workers accounted for 33 percent of workers in creative IT occupations (up from 8 percent in 1980).

The BLS analysis goes even deeper, drilling down to the foreign-born share of workers in creative IT occupations in what it calls "innovation-leading metropolitan areas," defined as the five metros with the most patents in computer software and hardware—San Jose, Seattle, Austin, Portland (Oregon); and Raleigh. In these metros, fully 53 percent of workers in creative IT jobs are foreign-born (up from 11 percent in 1980). In Silicon Valley specifically, the foreign-born share is an enormous 71 percent (up from 15 percent in 1980).

The dominance of foreign-born workers in Silicon Valley might explain the perception that American technological success is dependent on the foreign-born, suggests the BLS report. "Outside the United States, there is a strong perception that fortunes of many successful U.S. companies rest almost exclusively on foreign-born labor, with little credit given to the native-born labor force," says the report. But the facts say otherwise. Yes, foreign-born workers are a big part of the IT labor force, but the perception that they dominate the labor force may be "mostly due to Silicon Valley trends."

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Trends among Native- and Foreign-Origin Workers in U.S. Computer Industries

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