Tech companies are increasingly offering remote work options, giving employees the freedom to live wherever they want. But there is debate over whether cutting abortion rights — which the U.S. Supreme Court is considering — will affect decisions by businesses and individuals about where to locate.
California is betting some companies will leave abortion-restricting states if Supreme Court votes to overturn Roe vs. Wade, his 1973 ruling legalizing abortion nationwide. The state is considering relocation incentives for businesses in states “with anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ laws,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said this month.
After Texas passed new abortion restrictions last year, San Francisco-based Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said the company would help employees move out of Texas. “Oana [Hawaiian for family] if you want to move, we’ll help you get out of TX. Your choice,” he tweeted.
In the 50 years since the court decided Roe vs. Wade, individual workers, especially in the tech industry, have become highly mobile due to remote work, allowing them to leave the state and keep their jobs. Whether Roe vs. Wade reversed, how states react could influence personal decisions and business location decisions – but to what extent is up for debate among economists and other experts.
Abortion restrictions could make a state like Nevada more attractive to tech companies, said John Boyd, director of The Boyd Co., an enterprise site-selection consulting firm in Boca Raton, Florida.
Nevada has no personal or corporate income tax, and abortion is protected by law in that state, Boyd said. In 1990, Nevada voters approved a ballot question allowing abortion. Boyd expects companies to consider abortion laws when selecting sites, though the weight companies place on the issue varies.
Eugene Cornelius Jr.Senior Director, Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics
“The tech industry tends to place enormous importance on these human resource and labor issues,” Boyd said. But so far, “the impact has been limited to companies promising to pay for out-of-state travel for abortions.”
Eugene Cornelius Jr., senior director of the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics, says states that ban abortion and set other limits on reproductive rights could risk losing some of their educated workforce.
“Where talent goes, so does business,” Cornelius said. The Milken Institute, based in Santa Monica, Calif., is a nonpartisan think tank.
Profit, not abortion laws, will guide decisions
But Fred Carstensen, professor of finance and economics at the University of Connecticut, does not believe that the issue of abortion will have a significant role in business location decisions.
“Most businesses are profit-driven, and there’s more profit in locating in states with weak or non-existent safety nets, low taxes, weak regulation,” said Carstensen, who is also director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the university. Some organizations might believe it’s worth relocating to California or Connecticut, but will “more likely choose the low-cost location” and offer a benefit that includes transportation to a state where abortion is legal , did he declare.
Tech companies’ main response to the abortion law Texas passed last year — and the recent leak of the Supreme Court’s draft ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade – was to provide travel benefits to women if health services become unavailable in their home country. Yelp, Citigroup, Tesla and Microsoft have publicly announced or confirmed their decision to offer this benefit to employees.
Microsoft, for example, said in a statement that it “will continue to do everything we can under the law to protect the rights of our employees”, including “access to essential health care – which includes already have services like abortion and gender-affirming care — no matter where they live in the United States”
David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, a human resources consulting firm in Norwalk, Conn., views the company’s health benefits announcements as premature and poised, especially as the court did not rule on the matter.
Lewis also pointed out that the workers most affected by an abortion ban are likely not the well-paid tech workers who have the financial means to travel to another state. He said the lowest-paid workers in manual jobs with limited financial means would be hit the hardest.
Lewis said there’s also a risk that some employees will feel alienated from corporate positions. “Why did we assume that all of our employees are pro-choice? This could be a problem “where companies are going to regret identifying which side they are on,” he said.
According to a 2021 US Census Bureau report, technology and science-related occupations are overwhelmingly dominated by men, who make up 73% of all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workers. The tech industry has made improving gender diversity a priority, but women still make up only about 30% of technical employees and less than half of employees at major tech companies.
Roberta Guise, founder and president of FemResources Inc., believes that tech companies that “embrace strong social values” might be more willing to move into an abortion-friendly state or back down, and they might take action. quickly if Deer. c. Wade is reversed. The San Francisco-based nonprofit works to improve gender equality in the tech workforce.
The rising generation of workers “will likely flock to employers who care about their abortion rights and shun companies that show they don’t care,” Guise said. “Companies that show they care more about their bottom line than a woman’s right to an abortion will find it increasingly difficult to attract good talent.”
Guise cited a recent Pew Research Center survey that examined public opinion on abortion. Among 18-29 year olds surveyed, 74% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
If women receive “less than full support, they will bring their talent to a company that has demonstrated absolute support for abortion access and deny their business to states that have made abortion illegal,” Guise said. .
Remote work has transformed the workforce
What is clear is that remote work options have steadily increased for tech workers, affecting population growth in some states.
According to hiring data analyzed by CompTIA, a trade group and certification company for IT professionals, about 33% of all technology job postings this year offered work options at distance, some of which included hybrid requirements. In 2019, only 11% of tech jobs had a work-from-home option.
Tennessee and Idaho saw the largest percentage increase in tech jobs, from 2019 to December 2021, according to a study this month by the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA). The group did not know why these two states were in the lead and believe it could be due to quality of life issues. What is clearer is that prior to COVID-19, tech workers were moving to tech hubs, but since the pandemic began, the “tech workforce relocation dynamics changed,” the band reported in May.
TECNA, which represents some 22,000 tech companies, is using the findings to explain to lawmakers that tech workers live all over the country, said TECNA CEO Jennifer Grundy Young. “These workers could very well live in their districts and states, and they may not know it,” she said. The report’s findings support her general tech policy lobbying, but she said the group hasn’t addressed abortion internally.
How employees or businesses decide where to move or where to start a business often depends on many factors, Cornelius said.
“Older people will move to a place that doesn’t tax their pensions; younger people will look for less taxed places because they could create wealth,” he said. This could make a state with low taxes and reproductive rights protections attractive to young people.
Cornelius said new businesses will consider several things before settling in, including affordability, quality of life, political and fiscal climate, and whether a location fits their lifestyle.
Boyd expects Bay Area businesses looking to relocate, especially those considering Texas, will now look to the Reno metro area for its low taxes and available land. Besides the abortion problem in Texas, rising costs in Central Texas, housing and the like, could cause companies to lose interest in the state, he said.
While some companies might prioritize abortion as an issue, others might take a long-term view and see what happens when state legislatures change or modify laws, Boyd said. “They don’t want to get involved in political controversy if they can avoid it,” he said.
But there is a risk for lawmakers, he said.
“These social issues have become a new platform for lawmakers to potentially alienate job creators,” Boyd said.
Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget. He worked for more than two decades as a corporate IT journalist.