solving the tech worker shortage is easy just pay them more

American tech CEOs love to complain that they can’t find enough skilled workers and want the U.S. government to change its immigration policies to solve the problem. But there isn’t really a problem.

Josh Eidelson of Bloomberg Businessweek pointed out Monday that the real problem isn’t that there aren’t enough qualified people to do tech jobs but that tech companies don’t want to pay people enough to do them. He did this by citing academic research.

Eidelson quoted Hal Salzman, a professor of public policy at Rutgers, who said that tech companies looking to hire new workers “may not be able to find them at the price they want. But I’m not sure that counts as a shortage more than if I couldn’t find a half-price TV.

Salzman’s research showed that half of the college students who study computer science don’t enter the tech industry after graduating. 32% of the students Salzman polled said there weren’t enough tech jobs, which goes against the idea that there aren’t enough workers. Fifty-three percent of students said that they “found better job opportunities outside of IT occupations.” That suggests that the real problem is the relative pay of tech workers.

Compared to the median U.S. income of $53,000, tech jobs do pay well. A few years ago, Business Insider said that the average starting salary at a big company was between $55,000 and $87,000. But these companies aren’t competing to hire the average American worker. They say themselves that they want people with a lot of skills. 53 percent of tech graduates who found better job offers elsewhere suggest that tech companies pay less than some of the companies they are competing with for talent.

When you add Salzman’s finding that tech pay, adjusted for inflation, hasn’t gone up since 1999, you don’t get a picture of an industry with the best pay overall.

Even if there were a real lack of tech workers, CEOs could fix the problem by just paying workers more. Neil Irwin of The New York Times said the same thing when the trucking industry complained about not having enough drivers: pay them more, and they will come.

Instead of using the free market to get more workers, like by raising pay, the tech industry has focused on lobbying politicians to increase the number of temporary H1-B visas for high-skilled workers so that more workers can come into the country. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, started an organisation called FWD to try to get more H1-B visas as part of immigration reform.

It’s not a coincidence that H1-B workers are less expensive. The Economic Policy Institute says that 80 percent of people who work on H1-B visas make less than Americans who do the same jobs.

CEOs in the tech industry say that their industry is unique and needs more people with these skills. They would say that people who work in tech are nothing like truckers. Tech jobs are very specialised and depend on talent. The best workers are much more productive than the rest.

But you can say the same thing about many white-collar jobs. Companies that make technology are not unicorns. Other industries have to deal with the same problems that tech companies always complain about, like global competition for talent and a poor education system in the U.S., and they seem to do fine.

Take the example of money. People are willing to do hard, skilled work for more than 80 hours a week because wages are high enough.

Because of this, no one ever talks about a lack of bankers. On the contrary, some columns come out every so often that tell young, impressionable college graduates to ignore the high pay in the financial sector and maybe try working in tech instead. Some of those who graduated do. But you’ll never hear a bank or hedge fund say they can’t find enough people to hire.

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