Economists are pushing immigration reform as a potential solution to the ongoing labor shortage in the U.S.
- A new Chamber of Commerce report shows that the U.S. is struggling to fill low-wage and manufacturing jobs.
- As of March, there have been 693,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs, with low-wage positions particularly struggling to replace employees.
- Last year, 50 million Americans quit their jobs seeking better options with remote options and higher pay.
- Moody’s Analytics notes that labor-force participation has decreased, with 70% of that decrease caused by 1.4 million retirements since 2019.
- The aging out of older populations and associated brain drain could create a new permanent status quo, with continuous worker shortages going forward, Axios reports.
Why It’s Important
A significant cause of the shortage is the aging-out of the Baby Boomer generation and low birth rates among younger generations, meaning there are not enough employees to replace retirees. The National Bureau of Economic Research says the birthrate has decreased by 20% since 2007.
The U.S. is facing a serious and rapidly developing crisis where the current younger generations are not meeting replacement-level birthrates that allow for a population to avoid shrinking in the long run. On the very practical level, this will have adverse effects on the workforce, with a large older generation being supported by a smaller generation that will struggle to pay for their retirement benefits and medical costs.
Immigration advocates argue that the U.S. is staring down the same population crisis that China is currently facing. The U.S. needs more workers, either through stimulating birth rates, addressing the causes of declining birthrates, or immigrating new workers and families from elsewhere to ease the negative side effects of demographic decline.
Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch is an immigration lawyer in Austin, Texas. She tells Leaders Media that immigration continues to be a hot-button issue. President Donald Trump largely ran his 2016 and 2020 campaigns by promising to reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants from the U.S. southern border by building a border wall. President Joe Biden has run on purposely being more welcoming to immigrants and refugees.
But both sides agree Congress has not done a good job of moving the needle on immigration reform in a beneficial way. She believes that economic realities will make increased immigration the best solution.
“I don’t subscribe to the notion that immigrants only do dirty, low-skilled jobs. We need immigrants on all levels of the skill spectrum—including surgeons, engineers, inventors, and hotel workers. Every industry is impacted right now, but the ones we hear the most about are agricultural workers. The U.S. has an aging population. For the first time next year, we’ll have more Americans over the age of 65 than under the age of 15. We have an aging population, and that problem is getting worse,” she says.
The Republican Party, while not fully opposed to immigration, has continued to push back against uncontrolled immigration on the grounds that it protects national security and protects American jobs. One 2019 study found that as many as 47% of Republicans believe legal immigration should be decreased. 78% consider an overabundance of immigrants to be a critical threat to the country.
With an ongoing crisis on the southern border and hundreds of thousands of undocumented, Republican politicians like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbot have drawn significant attention for stunts, wherein they would drive busloads of undocumented immigrants to Democratic-controlled cities and leave them there.
On May 10, Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1718, which penalizes employers who hire undocumented workers and increases penalties for human trafficking. He condemns President Biden for a careless immigration policy that has created a manmade immigration crisis on the border through neglect. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed sweeping legislation on April 17 that limited asylum eligibility and cracks down on employment opportunities for undocumented workers. It has not been passed into law.
Of all Americans, 44% advocate for increased border security with Mexico, but only 25% oppose easing immigration standards for families of immigrants living in the U.S. Both parties unanimously support taking in war refugees, Pew Research reports.