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Endangered species: Say goodbye to the American programmer.

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    Say goodbye to the American software programmer. Once the symbols of hope as the nation shifted from manufacturing to service jobs, programmers today are an endangered species. They face a challenge similar to that which shrank the ranks of steelworkers and autoworkers a quarter century ago: competition from foreigners. 

    Some experts think they'll become extinct within the next few years, forced into unemployment or new careers by a combination of offshoring of their work to India and other low-wage countries and the arrival of skilled immigrants taking their jobs.

    Not everybody agrees programmers will disappear completely. But even the optimists believe that many basic programming jobs will go to foreign nations, leaving behind jobs for Americans to lead and manage software projects. The evidence is already mounting that many computer jobs are endangered, prompting concern about the future of the nation's high-tech industries.

    Since the dotcom bust in 2000-2001, nearly a quarter of California technology workers have taken nontech jobs, according to a study of 1 million workers released last week by Sphere Institute, a San Francisco Bay Area public policy group. The jobs they took often paid less. Software workers were hit especially hard. Another 28% have dropped off California's job rolls altogether. They fled the state, became unemployed, or decided on self-employment.

    The problem is not limited to California.

    Although computer-related jobs in the United States increased by 27,000 between 2001 and 2003, about 180,000 new foreign H-1B workers in the computer area entered the nation, calculates John Miano, an expert with the Programmers Guild, a professional society. "This suggests any gain of jobs have been taken by H-1B workers," he says.

    H-1B visas allow skilled foreigners to live and work in the US for up to six years. Many are able to get green cards in a first step to citizenship. Another visa, L-1, allows multinational companies to transfer workers from foreign operations into the US.

    The H-1B visa has been highly controversial for years. This fiscal year, Congress set a quota of 65,000 visas, which was snapped up immediately after they became available Oct.1. Now, US business is pleading for Congress to let in more such workers.

    The US Chamber of Commerce, for instance, wants Congress to revisit the cap "to ensure American business has access to the talent it needs to help keep our economy strong."

    That rationale makes no sense to the Programmers Guild and other groups that have sprung up to resist the tech visas. Since more than 100,000 American programmers are unemployed - and many more are underemployed - the existing 65,000 quota is inexcusably high, they argue. H-1B and L-1 visas are "American worker replacement programs," says the National Hire American Citizens Society.

    Further, the H-1B program, set up in 1990, is flawed, critics charge. For example, employers are not required to recruit Americans before resorting to hiring H-1Bs, says Norman Matloff, a computer science professor at the University of California, Davis.

    And the requirement that employers pay H-1Bs a "prevailing wage" is useless, he adds, because the law is riddled with loopholes. Nor are even any remaining regulations enforced.

    The average wage for an American programmer runs about $60,000, says John Bauman, who set up the Organization for the Rights of American Workers. Employers pay H-1Bs an average $53,000.

    A programmer, Mr. Bauman was out of work for 20 months before finally taking a job with a 40% pay cut. His experience is common enough that programmers are organizing to fight in Congress against H-1B and L-1 visas.

    But they face an uphill battle, says Mr. Miano, as business groups are far better organized and funded than the smattering of programmer groups. "They have the best legislation money can buy," he says.

    Miano sees such a dim future for programmers that he decided to enter law school. "I saw the handwriting on the wall," he says.

    Copyright 2004, The Christian Science Monitor

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    One thing which really isn't addressed here is one of communication. Every software Engineering book I've read speaks of how communication is the most important part of a project. I've been involved in plenty of projects where I have seen very "polite" foreigners do a good job, but because of communication and cultural differences, things just don't work out right. They have the Skillz, but frequently don't understand the business at hand.

    I think we'll see a drastic reduction of American programmers, but as time goes on, more and more jobs will come back when the cost savings of outsourced developers is overshadowed by missing project deadlines / delayed shipment / frustration.

    Anyone want fries with that?

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    I always liked the button I once found in a novelty read something like "I just finished college.  Would you like paper or plastic?"

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    That is an interesting article.  It is correct in the concerns it raises in terms of the possibility of losing programming jobs for Americans.  But it is wrong in implying that the solution should be to let in fewer people from other countries to work here.

    I am much more concerned about the jobs that are physically relocated to foreign countries than the jobs that are filled here with someone from another country.  Those jobs that go overseas don't contribute to our economy in any way and helps to develop a pool of talent in that country that will continue to suck away jobs. 

    We are actually better off pulling the best programmers from other counties here to the US to work because that keeps the talent pool here, which keeps the innovation here, which keeps the jobs here.


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    From the debate wrote:

    SCHIEFFER: Let's go to a new question, Mr. President. Two minutes. And let's continue on jobs.

    You know, there are all kind of statistics out there, but I want to bring it down to an individual.

    Mr. President, what do you say to someone in this country who has lost his job to someone overseas who's being paid a fraction of what that job paid here in the United States?

    BUSH: I'd say, Bob, I've got policies to continue to grow our economy and create the jobs of the 21st century. And here's some help for you to go get an education. Here's some help for you to go to a community college.

    Not that I want this to turn into a political thread but when we have a president who would tell someone that lost their job here is som help to go to college, it's no wonder why jobs are disappearing from this country.  If you had a job and you lost it, it's not always because you don't have the skills.  The economy is not at its best and the IT community keepts turning people off from itself!  You can improve a job sector when all of the reports coming out of it are negative. 

    No one I know who's out side of IT wants to put money into IT because we keep scaring them away.  Much like kids hearing stories of drills and pain at the dentist.  If all we get is the bad reported when we are not going to get support we need from the people and businesses that pay us.

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    I think unless the U.S. alltogether stops writing software then there are few worries.  It seems to me that what software companies will do is keep a smaller group of talented software engineers in-house as "core" developers who know the product and the business and know the code-base and do the new development work.  The maintenance work, adding features, customer requests, etc. will go overseas or be otherwise contracted out.  It's already happening. 

    So if you love software engineering (and did not get into it because you thought you'd get rich from options or something like that), then you are probably pretty good at it and so get into the core development group or management, mind your P's and Q's, and everything will probably be okay.

    And have a backup plan.

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    yo, dude1 !

    i'd say first get rid of those dangerous subversive Danes and send them back to Yurp.

    e.g. Anders Hejlsberg (Delphi, Borland VCL, C#, .NET, ..) or Bjarne Stroustrup (C++), for stealing the beautiful COBOL and FORTRAN and forcing us to program in that evil C++ and C#.


    Now seriously, as long as a country with 5 percent of worlds population has 90+ percent of worlds relevant software companies, the article sounds a bit whiny ..

    1) im referring to the author of the "christian" "science" monitor article, not the author of the post about it.

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    I can only speak from personal experience. But recently it seems, especially in some of CA's apps, that I am trying to reach the 131st level of Buddha to get the job done.

    EDIT: The above is only meant in fun, please do not take offense.

    I did find it interesting that the the 18 year old coder for the Fahrenheit spam program, formerly known as Midnight Spammer.. or something like that... made the same point as this thread... that American programmers simply are struggling. The take I got from it is that too many Corporations are thinking, wrongly, that they can save megabucks by going offshore. I would rather pay three times the upfront cost and have a functioning system than sit back and spend years in developnment and the process of interpreting business process to great coders, but not so great logisticians. Anyhow, we outsource to Canada.

    EDIT2: Good coders seem to live in frozen wastelands!

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    Oh, now I get it, Channel 9 India was started because of the reasons put forward in this thread... It makes sense now.

    manickernel wrote:

     I would rather pay three times the upfront cost and have a functioning system than sit back and spend years in developnment and the process of interpreting business process to great coders, but not so great logisticians.

    Would you pay three times the upfront cost, have a functioning system and have to wait years for it? (Longhorn).
    Maybe Microsoft have employed half Non-American and half real American programers, to get the mix of many years in production and a functioning system.
    I think the developers haven't left America, they have just moved to the mysterious land of Microsoft. Where all who have ventured to those lands forth, have vanished and not returned. Not even in a whisper.

    manickernel wrote:

    EDIT2: Good coders seem to live in frozen wastelands!

    Now only if Australia was frozen... Wink

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    Michael Lehman

    This article really got me thinking.

    I'm of the opinion we need to solve this problem by increasing demand rather than protecting supply.... which prompted me to write a long post on my blog
    I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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    The software industry is growing we need more programmers. American creativity remains as the driving force of our computing world.

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    eagle wrote:

    American creativity remains as the driving force of our computing world.

    What makes you think a programmer in Europe or India cannot be as creative as an American programmer?

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    Rossj wrote:
    eagle wrote:

    American creativity remains as the driving force of our computing world.

    What makes you think a programmer in Europe or India cannot be as creative as an American programmer?

    Hey! What about south america?!?!?!

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    sgomez wrote:
    Rossj wrote:
    eagle wrote:

    American creativity remains as the driving force of our computing world.

    What makes you think a programmer in Europe or India cannot be as creative as an American programmer?

    Hey! What about south america?!?!?!

    Oops sorry. S.America too (and everywhere else I forgot).

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    You forgot Mexico!

    Whatever do we get from Britian, but spam, spam, spam and more spam! Please to stop all the British SPAM!

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