Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The New Unions

This article "The New Unions" has kind of swag-jacked a theory I've had for a year: the only real unions for college-degreed jobs are licensing requirements.

From a US worker perspective, it's natural for one to want their occupation to be over-licensed, in order to keep supply of colleagues in the occupation low, & thus demand high. This effect is the same as a traditional union, in terms of enhancing the employment rate, pay, working conditions, etc, of those licensed workers in question.

For a general US citizen perspective on the US economy, the problem with the current scheme is that there is no coherent scheme. Some occupations are not licensed at all and should be. Other occupations are over-licensed.

Some occupations, such as IT professionals such as software engineers, & certain engineers in general, face extreme competition from H1-B visas, offshore outsourcing, & age discrimination. Other occupations have there professional society force extreme protectionism to prevent newcomers, whether US citizens, H1-B, or offshored workers, from competing in the field.

IMHO Ideally the nature of each occupation could be analyzed for the work content and skills, & an appropriate coherent level of licensing would be required. The H1-B visa could be reformed perhaps to allow a limited amount of yearly visas, say the 65k workers/yr number from a few years ago, to be put out for competition to the highest bidder. Maybe it would cost something like $40K per visa, & companies hiring IT, engineers, professors, lawyers, accountants, physicians, architects, etc, would have to compete with each other for the limited H1-B slots, & would have to really rethink hard their statement "we couldn't find an American willing/able to do the job".

Of course any such reform, if it happens, is probably not going to happen significantly for years. In other words, people that are actually adults now may want to consider retraining (or training if still in college) for heavily licensed careers.

I'd love to see the MVP US economist Dean Baker drop some knowledge on this article. I'm gonna hit up his blog comments & see if he'll pontificate on this & drop the $0.02.

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