Donald Sensing links to a post on CalPundit in which a commenter writes:

But in this same vein, I have friends in the Silicon Valley -- highly-trained computer programmers -- who've been unemployed for two years. The San Jose Mercury News Sunday employment insert I saw a month ago was a mere 6 or so pages ... mostly filled with ads for health care workers (nurses, yes, but also LOTS of low-paid CNAs and the like). There were essentially NO ads for high-tech workers. Everybody says, "Well, it's cyclical, it'll come back." But my friends are all pretty nervous right now, knowing as they do that India is cranking out programmers -- GREAT programmers -- like bottle caps ... and they can, ALL of them, as easily work from Bangladore as from Scotts Valley. And that, of course, is precisely what's happening: companies are beginning to hire their software needs from subcontractors in India, or opening their own offices there.
This is a common misconception. I have no doubt that computer programmers in Silicon Valley are having problems finding work -- the dot-com boom is gone, and there are probably far too many programmers in that region for the remaining tech companies to support. However, almost every anecdote I've heard about outsourced, foreign programmers has been negative.

Far from being "GREAT" programmers, most of the code that I've seen come back from Indian chop-shops and the like has been rather mediocre. Even worse, the management of the Indian outsorucing companies is generally considered to be spectacularly poor -- even corrupt -- and it can be a nightmare trying to communicate technical ideas and problems with non-technical, non-native English speakers located half-way around the world.

Here's a thread on Fog Creek's forum that tells a similar story. This is not to say that non-American programmers are each individually poor, but the good ones usually move to America where the pay is higher. The costs of organization and the logistics of distant communication often end up outweighing whatever money is saved by hiring cheap labor.

Furthermore, it's important to consider what type of technical work you're talking about. If you're interested in dealing with the federal government in any significant capacity, you're pretty much going to have to be US-based for security reasons. This means that Microsoft, for instance, couldn't outsource much work to foreign companies, even if they wanted to.

There's no doubt that foreign programmers are competition for programmers in America, but they fill a specific niche in the market. Just as some manufacturing has moved out of the country, some services will move out of the country as well. As that happens, American wages will drop, and more jobs will be retained. It's the nature of the world, and Americans are always on the cutting edge. Keep ahead of the technology curve and you won't have problems finding work.

But if you're an unemployed computer programmer, I'd bail out of Silicon Valley ASAP.



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