In April of 2017, President Trump unveiled his action plan for immigrants coming to America on an H-1B visa. H-1B visas allow immigrants with a specialized skill set, or with advanced degrees to come to America and work in that industry. Trump insists the program is susceptible to abuse since companies are using it to hire foreign workers at a cheaper salary in place of equally skilled Americans. Instead of hiring these workers and paying them a $100,000 salary under the H-1B, American employers are hiring people who aren’t as highly qualified and paying around $60,000. Or, some companies outsource jobs after getting visas for foreign workers, in lieu of American employees. According to him, this is another reason why countries like China are taking advantage of the U.S. Reforming the visa program is also an attempt to bring back jobs to the U.S. As Trump had promised during his campaign.
There are varying views as to the real cause of the job crisis in America, or the unemployment of many Americans. Some may agree with the idea that immigrants are to blame, while are told their under-qualified for certain positions. Christel Washington, 49, has been unemployed for almost 10 years. “I know people with degrees that can’t find jobs. I know people with only a high school education that have good jobs. I don’t believe Americans have more opportunities when it comes to employment. Why? Because Americans are considered to be lazy. People from other countries are looked at as harder or better workers.”
On April 3rd, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services suspended the H-1B program. As of now, about 82% of H-1Bs issued in 2016 are held by immigrants from India and China. But will American unemployment really improve by reforming H-1B? It may help in the tech sector but what about blue collar jobs such as manufacturing? Are immigrants truly taking American jobs as Trump claims? H-1B only covers the specialized and technical sectors, so what about those who do not wish to work in the technological field?
The current unemployment rate has decreased to 4.9%, a number that sounds like it should be a cause for celebration. Some economists attribute the impressive number to the fact that baby boomers are retiring and more students are opting to stay in school longer and pursuing graduate school. A report by the Labor Department shows that 62.7% of adults are currently working or actively seeking employment.
The rate is deceptive because it makes it seem like there are more people finding jobs. Actually, there are more people who have stopped looking for work or have refused to search, therefore they cannot be counted into the labor force participation rate, making the rate of employed Americans seem impressive.
Another obstacle for job growth in America is automation. Many companies have turned to using machines and computers to replace the jobs humans used to perform. They work faster and ultimately cost less than having actual employees. In an interview with Business Insider in March 2016, the CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., Andy Puzder, advocates the usage of automation. Puzder, who had been very vocal about his stance against raising the minimum wage, believes the government’s plan to raise the cost of labor actually reduces employment opportunities. “Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?” His solution? He wants to create a restaurant which relies solely on automation. Customers will never have to interact with a person.
Although a lot of manufacturing jobs have already been taken over by machines, President Trump has promised to create new manufacturing jobs for Americans. He has launched a Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, which consists of some of the most successful business leaders in America. The goal is to gain insight on how to achieve his ultimate dream of “Buy American, Hire American.” The President of the Alliance for Manufacturing, Scott Paul, is optimistic about the premise. He insists that the returning jobs will require a high skill set and will need skilled workers to operate the complex machines. In an interview with John Hayward on Breitbart.com, Paul discussed his enthusiasm for bringing back manufacturing jobs to the United States. “These are well-paying jobs. This is a ladder of where Americans can achieve the middle-class dream. It is very much a part of our future. Smart nations are betting on manufacturing in their future. It’s going to look a lot different than it did in the 1950s, but it’s important to have it as a centerpiece in the economy,” he said.
Ben Bernanke, an American economist and former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, doesn’t think the President’s plan for manufacturing jobs will be successful.
The lack of skilled candidates for white collar, or advanced degree jobs, is an issue that has to be fought at the student level, starting with the education of Americans. “So what we need is a whole raft of things including pre-K intervention, better schooling, internships, stronger college programs, a whole variety of things to get people better trained and give them a chance to make it up into the upper echelon.”
There are plenty of proposals and ideas being introduced by President Trump. A big portion of his votes came from people who wanted to see the employment situation improve and they are willing to wait patiently for the results. “He thinks everything will come easy,” Christel said. “He will learn- they do not.”