[FoRK] [IP] more on Tech: A 'hostile environment' forUS natives?
Sergio Montoro Ten
sergiom at knowgate.com
Mon May 9 01:58:35 PDT 2005
I belive that the basic reason for low salaries (at least in my own country)
is the lack of regulations about who can do a programming job.
Let my put an example: here in Spain up to 40% of all university graduates
Curiously, a lawyer earns ~100€ per hour whilst a programmer earns -at most-
200€ per day.
This is because there are some artificial market imperfections that force a
high price on legal consulting. But anybody can [legally] do a program for
you, so contractors tend to organize auctions and give projects to the
My opinion is that the root of this situation is that computer science was
born in an age when guilds were out of fashion; this trend, and our own
arrogance, made us neglect political pressure to protect our own working
environment when it could have been done on time.
On the other hand, we are not so different from many other proffesions, like
accountants, journalists, teachers, etc. Who earn much less than the average
Maybe we should rethink whether what is good for society is also good for
ourselves and reach a balance between both goals.
Sergio Montoro Ten
----- Original Message -----
From: "Owen Byrne" <owen at permafrost.net>
To: "Eugen Leitl" <eugen at leitl.org>
Cc: "forkit!" <fork at xent.com>
Sent: Sunday, May 08, 2005 9:09 PM
Subject: Re: [FoRK] [IP] more on Tech: A 'hostile environment' forUS
natives???? (fwd from dave at farber.net)
> That one is funny. Programming has always been a low-paying job except
> for the abberation of the last ten years or so in the US, except
> for "boutique" programming. I know someone - a good C programmer,
> working for a software development house, in a first world country, that
> has never made more than 20 k (Canadian). The only way to actually make
> a decent living in software has (again except for recent aberrations)
> been to move into management, systems analysis, etc.
> Think clerical workers, factory labor, construction workers - i.e.
> labor. Don't even bother with using the word "professional" - because
> "professionals" do one big thing that programmers don't - they have
> unions (AMA, State Bar Associations, Accounting Societies) and difficult
> accreditation procedures to control the supply and ensure that wages
> stay high.
> >----- Forwarded message from David Farber <dave at farber.net> -----
> >From: David Farber <dave at farber.net>
> >Date: Sun, 8 May 2005 10:42:21 -0400
> >To: ip <ip at v2.listbox.com>
> >Subject: [IP] more on Tech: A 'hostile environment' for US natives????
> >X-Mailer: Apple Mail (2.728)
> >Reply-To: dave at farber.net
> >Begin forwarded message:
> >From: "Jonathan S. Shapiro" <shap at eros-os.org>
> >Date: May 8, 2005 9:18:10 AM EDT
> >To: dave at farber.net
> >Cc: Ip ip <ip at v2.listbox.com>
> >Subject: Re: [IP] more on Tech: A 'hostile environment' for US
> >[For IP]
> >Gordon poses the question:
> >>...just how I can seriously compete with someone in another
> >>country who's delighted to do essentially equivalent work for
> >>(what to him is a princely salary) $450 a month?
> >Nobody else seems willing to come out and actually say it, so perhaps I
> >will to do so: he can't.
> >Here is the point that everyone seems to agree on. Most of us don't like
> >it, but we all seem to agree that in an international marketplace it is
> >a fact:
> > Setting aside certain "boutique" markets, the price of programming
> > is set by an international market. It follows directly that US
> > programmers will either lower their prices to or they will,
> > professionally speaking, cease to exist.
> >But nobody wants to be the "sounder of doom" for the US programming
> >market, so none of us want to state the consequence:
> > US programmers *cannot* lower their prices to that point.
> > Therefore, absent a fundamental change in the economics of
> > software, it's time for US programmers to (a) move to places
> > where what they can earn is a living wage, or (b) find a new
> > job.
> >It's not that the US has a "tech hostile" environment. It's that the
> >laws of global economics are hostile to expensive providers.
> >The right question isn't "How do we keep programmers employed?" The
> >right question is: "How do we change the economics of software?"
> >Here are some options (good and bad, none realistic):
> >1. Tariffs. We could impose protective tariffs on software written
> >outside the US, just as we do for many other goods. The bottom line is
> >that this isn't a long-haul solution, and we need a long-haul solution.
> >Tariffs just won't work.
> >2. Eliminate software patents. It is now widely agreed that the main
> >effect of software patent has been to stifle innovation and change in
> >the software industry. Innovation is one of the places where the US
> >still holds a fundamental advantage vs. the rest of the world. Get rid
> >of the impediments to innovation. Use our international political
> >leverage to tear them down elsewhere.
> >3. Remove liability protection for software vendors. In my opinion this
> >is long overdue, and it would benefit the users. No better way to employ
> >programmers than to finally force us to rebuild everything correctly --
> >and for that matter, to discover *how* to rebuild things correctly.
> >4. Invest in raising the standards of living in India and China. This is
> >a long term strategy, and a good one. We've been doing it for a long
> >time. It doesn't solve anything in the short term.
> >5. Re-think the way we train programmers. We still view Computer Science
> >as a science discipline rather than an engineering discipline. Making US
> >programmers 10 times as effective would go a long way toward offsetting
> >their higher salary. The problem with this approach is that
> >international students can go to school too.
> >6. Recognize that in the commodity software market the cost of software
> >construction basically doesn't matter, because the profit margin is so
> >high. The place where the cost of programming really matters is in
> >contract effort and/or efforts where there are only a small pool of
> >potential customers. In one sense, the free software people are right:
> >customers do not, and never have, paid for software.
> >7. Invest in the free software process, since that price cannot be
> >undercut. Shift our business attention to other parts of the value
> >Some of these thoughts just won't work. Others are politically
> >unacceptable, but I do think that I'm asking the right question: How do
> >we change the nature of software economics?
> >The one thing I'll add to the mix, which may prove thought-provoking to
> >programmers: the answer isn't going to be initiated by software
> >companies. It is in your employer's interest to hire at the lowest
> >price. If you want to see change happen, you are going to have to
> >organize a grass roots lobbying effort. This probably means creating a
> >serious programmer's union to protect your jobs as you lobby against the
> >entrenched practices of your employers. It's a long, rough haul.
> >Personally, I'ld prefer to see a more productive solution. I just don't
> >see one within the current political and economic climate.
> >Jonathan Shapiro
> >You are subscribed as eugen at leitl.org
> >To manage your subscription, go to
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