Just Turned 35? Too Old to Work in Tech

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

May 31, 2017

The H-1B visa is acknowledged as the greatest contributor to American IT job displacement. Last year, several stories about the H-1B’s deleterious effects on American engineers finally hit the headlines, more than 30 years after Congress created the visa. Abuse began immediately.

Recently, another reason to get rid of the H-1B, age discrimination, got some long overdue publicity. UC Davis Professor Norm Matloff has been pointing out for years that the H-1B allows younger, foreign workers to displace older American engineers. And by old, Professor Matloff doesn’t mean 65; he’s identified the age at which Americans become vulnerable as 35.

Age 35 is the new 65.

In 2017, two mainstream media reports surfaced that support Professor Matloff’s findings.

In February, The New York Times published an op-ed which in addition to pointing out that employers love the H-1B because it expands the labor pool, and therefore creates the opportunity to pay lower wages, also noted that it discriminates against older workers. From the Op-Ed: “...individual American employees do face more salary pressure from newcomers who will work for less. And in some cases, they risk losing their jobs entirely, especially older employees who earn higher salaries.”

Then, a month later, CBS’ 60 Minutes, for years an H-1B advocate, did a segment that concluded “...we discovered more and more are taking advantage of loopholes in the law to fire American workers and replace them with younger, cheaper, temporary foreign workers with H-1B visas.”

President Trump signed an executive order in April that promised to overhaul the H-1B visa, and, in the process, to eliminate its countless loopholes. If President Trump needs encouragement, he could look down under. Australia recently ended its 457 visa program, and will replace it with a stricter version that will include a police check. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the 457 visa “had lost its credibility.” On his Facebook page, Turnbull wrote, “Australian jobs and Australian values.”

Turnbull’s statement about lost credibility applies to the H-1B, and his pledge to restore Australian jobs echoes President Trump’s “hire American” theme. Now it’s up to President Trump to convert promises into reality.

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