Amid all the other forms of uncertainty resulting from the unexpected election of Donald Trump to President of the United States there is the one of the impact of Trump on Telework. And vice-versa. What might/will change as a result? Here are some possibilities.
Trump has made numerous claims that he will build a wall to keep out Mexicans and other illegal immigrants, even though the net flow of them has been in the other direction lately. He will spend billions to erect this wall (recently downgraded to fence) and force Mexico to pay for it; an option rejected by the President of Mexico.
Not only that, Trump apparently wants to either stop all immigration to the U.S. or erect sufficiently formidable legal and other barriers to repel potential legal immigrants, especially muslims and others he will think of later. That probably presents a problem to Silicon Valley and other organizations in the technology business. They claim to be desperate for an increase in the number of H1B visas; the mechanism for getting highly educated foreigners to work in the U.S. without going through the normal (until now) immigration channels.
This might also have an effect on universities. According to Rosanna Xia of the Los Angeles Times: “A record high of more than 1 million foreign students came to the U.S. for higher education last school year.” More than one-third of these major in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) and are hot prospects for employment in the U.S. after graduation. By the way, the University of Southern California, my former employer, ranks number 2 in the nation with 13.3 thousand foreign students. Furthermore, almost one-third of these students come from China, and more than one out of seven are from India. Xia goes on to note: “They [the STEM students] contributed more than $35 billion to the economy last year, including more than $5 billion in California, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.”
Now, suppose that Trump includes that bunch of people in his blanket shut-the-gates move. A measurable hit to our economy. Measurable is the key word here. Most of the other students and immigrants to the U.S., legal or otherwise, also have positive net impacts on our economy. I just don’t have numbers for their impact. But in the case of the students there is a solution: Telework! Let them stay in their homelands and contribute to the U.S. economy while learning via telelearning! Of course, they might also be contributing to their own economies as a result of their newly-acquired education, thereby eroding our isolation, but what the hey. Immigration problem solved.
Trump thinks (or thought) that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by China. Or at least he thinks that what’s happening is not man made. The fact that at least 98% of scientists with actual knowledge of the climate agree that climate change is happening, and that it is largely man made, is discounted by Trump on the grounds that all those scientists are conspirators!
Part of this is because many of those scientists are teleworking; collaborating, sharing data and theories, correcting their models to match reality via the internet. So in that sense they are conspirators. They’re conspiring to make their models of the climate as accurate, and as useful for forecasting, as possible. The likelihood that any one — or dozen — of them can sway the views of thousands of scientists is miniscule. (I say that since, as a scientist I always have to remember that there are few things that have zero possibility of occurring — within the laws of physics.) That is, climate change is real, it’s happening and increasing our use of fossil fuels will exacerbate the rate of warming.
Of course, if we could increase the intensity and frequency of all forms of telework, particularly telecommuting, we could offset some of the potential ill effects of a Trump regime.