US tech companies discriminate against older workers

Across the pond, US technology companies are fighting to get changes to immigration laws so that they can hire more foreign workers.

While they appear to have a good case that there is a shortage of skilled workers some of that might be because they have a policy of not hiring older people to do the work.

NPR just ran a yarn which looked at an increase in H-1B visas. Local IT workers are against it.

The Engineer’s argument was that the skill shortage was all a product of the big IT company’s hiring policies which discriminated against older engineers.

One person who testified to the inquiry was Mitch Ericson has been applying for jobs at Microsoft since before he finished his computer science bachelor’s degree last summer.

He is not a traditional candidate for entry-level software work. This was a late career change for him, and he’s 60. But he figures if the need is so great, Microsoft could at least take a look at him, but it didn’t.

The reason for this is nothing to do with the fact that IT companies want an image of being young and thrusting, but a more black and white idea of saving cash.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages for computer programmers have stagnated. In fact, between 2001 and 2011, the mean hourly wage didn’t even keep up with inflation.

The reason for this is that the IT outfits have been using H1-B visas work as a kind of pressure-release valve on pay. Foreign workers are cheaper.

Computer science professor Norman Matloff claims the visas let companies avoid hiring older programmers.

He said that candidates may have an exact skills fit, but if you’re 35, you’re probably not going to get a phone call. Meanwhile, the company is going to tell the press that there’s just not any qualified people out there.

Microsoft disagrees. It says that H1-B workers actually cost more because of the legal fees involved, and it hires foreign workers only when it has no choice.