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Tech Industry Use of Foreign, Temp, and Overseas Labor Causing Unemployment? High-Tech Debate Fills the Forums as IEEE-USA C
Tech Industry Use of Foreign, Temp, and Overseas Labor Causing Unemployment? High-Tech Debate Fills the Forums as IEEE-USA C

(July 30, 2002) - Sparking a firestorm of online debate in the tech field, the IEEE-USA, an organizational unit of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, has asked Congress to investigate the impact of increased hiring of non-U.S. guest workers, the greater use of temporary workers and the outsourcing of engineering work overseas as causes of the unemployment problem, in addition to the economic downturn.

"IEEE-USA is concerned that the most recent increase in engineering unemployment is not a short term or cyclical phenomenon, but represents a more fundamental shift in engineering utilization that has potentially negative impacts for our nation," IEEE-USA President LeEarl Bryant said in a letter to Congress earlier this month. (www.ieeeusa.org/forum/POLICY/02July12.html).

"The corporate management mantra "better, faster, cheaper" is predicated on 'flexible labor markets,' continues Bryant in her letter. "Unfortunately that translates into management practices that make engineers' jobs less secure and careers in engineering increasingly untenable. Labor flexibility in the technical fields is a euphemism for hiring foreign guest workers, increasing use of temporary workers (perma-temps), and outsourcing engineering work overseas. The result is that U.S. engineers are finding it harder and harder to find new jobs after a corporate layoff or downsizing, especially as they approach their 40s."

In a JDJ exclusive, we asked IEEE spokesman Chris McManes for comment on the postings that have resulted from the IEEE-USA's call for congressional action. "We are pleased that it has generated so much discussion, and we hope that out of the discussion, maybe we can find some solutions of benefit to everybody - get the engineers back to work, get our corporations working again, get the people designing the products that eventually make it to the marketplace and ultimately help move the whole economy." He continued, "We're pleased with all of the talk on all sides of the issue. If people are not only posting and talking among themselves, but if a few people actually pick up the phone and call their congressional representatives, echoing what we say, then there's more chance that some of these [congressional] forums will be held."

According to the IEEE-USA, although the overall U.S. unemployment rate fell in the second quarter, it increased significantly for engineers and computer scientists, reaching an all-time high for these technical professionals in the quarter just ended.

IEEE-USA is calling on all members of Congress to conduct a field hearing or town hall meeting during the August district work period to gather input on the situation from engineers and other high-tech professionals. "It is time for Congress to take a closer look at the problem of engineering unemployment and to eliminate the government subsidies and incentives that encourage corporate management to treat U.S. engineers as a disposable labor commodity rather than an essential investment in our nation's future," Bryant said.

Reporting unemployment data for the tech world, the IEEE states, "The unemployment rate for all engineers increased from 3.6 percent in the first quarter of 2002 to 4.0 percent in the second quarter, data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals. The rate for electrical and electronics engineers (EEs) rose from 4.1 percent to 4.8. The rate for computer scientists, which includes systems analysts, jumped from 4.8 to 5.3 percent. Overall unemployment fell from 5.9 to 5.4 percent."

The world's largest technical professional society, the IEEE promotes the careers and public-policy interests of the more than 235,000 electrical, electronics, computer, and software engineers who are U.S. members of the organization. For more information, go to www.ieeeusa.org.

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JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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