Importance of Immigrants To Labour Markets Of Developed Nations
The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University completed a study for the National Business Roundtable entitled, “Immigrant Workers and the Great American Job Machine: The Contributions of New Foreign Immigration to National and Regional Labor Force Growth in the 1990s.” This report indicates that foreign immigration had a much greater impact on the labor surge in the 1990s than previously suggested by most labor studies. The Center for Labor Market Studies concludes that the economic success of the 1990s was greatly dependent on new immigrant workers, particularly male immigrant workers. In the 1990s, 13 to 14 million new immigrants arrived in the United States. To place this number in perspective, this immigration total far exceeds the decennial immigration numbers during the “Great Wave of Immigration” from 1890 to 1920. This high number of new immigrants accounted for over 40 percent of the country’s population growth during the decade. In regard to the civilian labor force, these new immigrants accounted for over 50 percent of the nation’s labor growth. Since labor force statistics were first accumulated in 1940, new immigrant workers have never accounted for such a large percentage of the nation’s overall labor increase. The new influx of immigrant workers contained a high proportion of working males, accounting for 79 percent of the growth in the nation’s male civilian labor force. The areas most influenced by the new immigrant labor force were the Northeastern and Western regions of the United States. In comparison to native citizens entering the labor force, the immigrant labor force was more likely to be young (under 35) and less educated, with over a third of the new immigrant workers not completing high school. Interestingly, even with such a low number of high school graduates, the number of new immigrants workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher was nearly identical to the number of new native born workers with these degrees. New immigrant workers have been employed in a large number of major industrial sectors, but immigrant workers are over-represented in a number of industrial sector including farm/forestry/fishing, construction, manufacturing, business/repair services, and personal services. In contrast, the new immigrant work force is under-represented in positions that do not require physical labor. The U.S. Census Bureau, the Urban Institute, and the authors of this study have concluded that approximately 9 million new immigrant workers are undocumented aliens. Because of these high numbers, the Center for Labor Market Studies believes that the country should conduct a comprehensive national debate on immigrant labor policies. The Center for Labor Market Studies also believes that the nation’s reliance on immigrant labor must receive additional attention from the nation’s economic policymakers, the business community, organized labor, and from workforce development boards. Regarding future labor studies, the Center for Labor Market Studies recommends a broader assessment of the types of employment performed by new immigrant workers. Another recommendation is a more comprehensive analysis of the labor force behavior of recent immigrant women.
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