Minnesotans For Sustainability


Sustainable:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.




September 14, 2000

Letters to The Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15TH Street NW
Washington DC 20071

To The Editor:

Your newspaper did a disservice to its readers when it published an article written by Mr. Norman Matloff ("High-Tech Cheap Labor," Sept. 12, 2000) in which he claims that the sole purpose of the computer industry's vigor over the H-1B visa program is to save a few bucks. Mr. Matloff brings nothing useful to the debate over the shortage of highly skilled high-tech workers in the United States, and his claims are unsubstantiated and purely speculative.

Mr. Matloff purports that there have been no conclusive studies that prove there is in fact a labor shortage in the IT Industry. The only "evidence" he provides to support his claim is the high volume of resumes companies receive for any given position and their low hiring percentages of those applicants. He completely disregards the most likely reason for the hiring rates being so low, which is a lack of qualified applicants.

In January 2000, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Technology Policy released a report, The Digital Workforce: Building Infotech Skills at the Speed of Innovation, that focuses on the state of the country's ability to meet labor needs in the high-tech market. According to the report, one-third of the total growth in the U.S. economy between 1995 and 1997 was due to the expansion of information technology. Furthermore, the report projects that between 1998 and 2003 Internet commerce will grow from $48 billion to $1.3 trillion, global e-commerce from $1.8 billion to $3.2 billion, and U.S. consumer sales over the Internet from $3.9 billion to $108 billion.

In conjunction with this unprecedented growth, the report found that numerous employers are desperately searching for highly skilled workers. They offer high salaries and benefits to attract potential specialists, which exacerbates an already tight labor market for IT jobs. Despite high salaries, employers are still finding it extremely difficult to fill their labor needs. This is due in large part to the unusually low rate of unemployment in the field. While the general workforce is experiencing the lowest levels of unemployment in decades, the unemployment rate for workers in the IT professions was at a paltry 1.4% in 1998.

Mr. Matloff is quick to state that the "facts" indicate that big business is abusing the existing H-1B program, however, nowhere in the article, are these "facts" ever presented. Mind you, Mr. Matloff is a professor of computer science not economics or statistics. In contrast, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan stated in a speech to the Senate Banking Committee in February of this year, "Demand is putting very significant pressures on an ever-decreasing supply of unemployed labor. The one obvious means that one can use to offset that is expanding the number of people we allow in, either generally or in specifically focused areas."

I'm convinced your readers would agree that Chairman Greenspan's analysis is the more reliable of the two.


Andrew Prazuch
Deputy Director
American Immigration Law Foundation

MFS note: Dr. Matloff's, "Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage" is available on this website here.


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