Finance chiefs are expressing strong support for easing restrictions on foreign students as they struggle to hire and retain qualified employees, according to the latest Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook survey.

Eighty-percent of survey respondents believe the U.S. government should routinely grant H-1B work visas to foreign science and technology undergraduate students studying in the U.S. while 77% think foreign science and technology graduate students should have easy access to green cards.

The quarterly survey also found that 78% of CFOs believe the U.S. should drop the lottery system and adopt a merit-based immigration policy.

“The current constraints on hiring immigrants pose considerable risk to the U.S. being able to sustain 3 percent-plus economic growth,” said Cam Harvey, a founding director of the survey who teaches a technology innovation course at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

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“Given the tight labor market, firms are most concerned about securing the right talent,” he added. “The CFOs are loud and clear that immigration reform will allow them to fill some gaps with skilled immigrant labor.”

The tight labor market was reflected in the survey results as 53% of CFOs identified hiring and retaining qualified employees as a top-four concern — a two-decade high and up sharply from 41% in the last quarter.

Over the past 12 months, CFOs reported that they had to replace 14% of their workers, compared with 13% in the year-ago period.

Optimism over the U.S. economy, however, remains at a high level, with the optimism index at 70, while CFO optimism over their own firms’ financial prospects increased to 71.4, the highest level since 2007. In the previous quarter, the Optimism Index hit an all-time high of 71.

Another concern for CFOs is that the fast pace of technological change is hampering the ability of companies to plan for the future. Companies indicated that five years ago they could effectively plan 3.5 years into the future but in the current environment, they said, they can only plan 2.3 years out.

“If companies hold off on investing because of the fast pace of change, this may damage long-run growth prospects for the overall economy,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Fuqua and director of the survey.

The poll concluded September 7 and generated responses from more than 800 CFOs globally.

Photo: Getty Images

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One response to “CFOs Back Immigration Reform to Aid Hiring”

  1. Sadly, Trump’s contentious issue is yet one more thing that makes being an international student away from home difficult, compounded by our complex culture and language problems. Welcoming and assimilation assistance must come from numerous sources, including the White House, to aid these young people embarking on life’s journey. Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and even informative books to extend a cultural helping hand.
    Something that might help anyone coming to the US is the award-winning worldwide book/ebook “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” Used in foreign Fulbright student programs and endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it identifies how “foreigners” have become successful in the US, including students.
    It explains how to cope with a confusing new culture and friendship process, and daunting classroom differences. It explains how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work with/for an American firm here or overseas.
    It also identifies the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.
    Good luck to all wherever you study or wherever you come from, because that is the TRUE spirit of the American PEOPLE, not a few in government who shout the loudest! Supporters of int’l students must shout louder.

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