Immigration of skilled workers has been a key driver of economic growth and innovation in the US in health care and throughout the economy. However, we are in real danger of losing that edge. The US has made immigration more difficult by restricting visa availability; there has been a fair amount of immigrant bashing as well. See (Biting the hand that feeds you, sutures you, fills your prescription…) Meanwhile, economic conditions in places like India are improving significantly, so there’s less of a willingness to jump through hurdles and then be met with less than full acceptance.
The problem is only getting worse with the current depression. Economic opportunities are declining in the US overall and politicians are using the bailout funds and stimulus program as a chance to try to channel funding away from foreign workers.
An article in today’s Wall Street Journal (Ineligible Bachelors: Indian Men Living in US Strike Out) put the issue in personal terms:
Indian parents used to think it a plus to marry off their daughters to Indian men living in wealthier countries, including the U.S. and Britain. But as India has grown more affluent in recent years, the demand for overseas Indian grooms has been fading. While India’s economy is also slowing down, it is still growing, and layoffs aren’t as widespread as in the West…
Career-oriented Indian women, meanwhile, have grown concerned about their job prospects in the U.S. Sandeep Gohad, a Manchester, Conn., software consultant who’s between jobs, got such questions during a two-month-long visit to his hometown of Pune, near Mumbai. He told bride candidates they would have a hard time getting a work visa in the U.S. And even if they did, finding jobs would be tough. He, too, came home single. An engineer or doctor “has absolutely no reason to go to the U.S.A. and work as a housewife,” he says.
If skilled professionals can’t get visas they won’t come to the US, and if they can’t get married they won’t stay. It’s a problem for many industries. In health care, for example, it means the shortage of primary care physicians in small towns and rural areas will get worse.April 6, 2009