America Needs Immigrants
Robert A. Levine
If America is going to continue to be an economic colossus, we need more workers. The “great resignation,” Covid retirements and low birth rates have all contributed to a need to fill open jobs. That can only be accomplished by increasing immigration. Throughout American history, immigrants have always played a large role in America's workforce.
Population growth has been declining in America as birth rates have become lower, a trend that will only be exacerbated in the future. In the 1970s and 1980s, population growth of people in their prime working years-25-54, in the United States was over 2 percent, fostered by both elevated birth rates and immigration. Currently, population growth in these prime working years has slipped to 0.2 percent. With birth rates continuing to decrease and immigration being restricted, a further dearth of prime age workers can be expected in the future. Recent surveys have noted that over 20 percent of young women want to remain childless and never have children.
Even in this age of automation and increased use of robotics, our economy cannot continue to operate efficiently and grow without the availability of more workers. This includes both unskilled laborers and highly skilled and educated high tech workers. The most recent unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, an extremely low level. And job openings are going unfilled as there are not enough workers to take these positions.
It is true that the pandemic of Covid 19 has played a role in the increased number of job openings, with large numbers of workers resigning from their jobs, looking for higher pay, better working conditions, or just retiring. But an insufficient number of workers are returning to work and there are not enough men and women stepping into the work force to replace them. And this will only get worse given the nation’s low birth rate. It is not only the United States that is having lower birth rates in recent years. This trend has been present in virtually every advanced nation.
Reasons for lower birth rates include more women who are career oriented and people marrying at later ages. In addition, America does not provide enough affordable child day care options for mothers who want to work and does not sufficiently subsidize the cost of raising children. This includes the costs of education, particularly for parents who expect their children to pursue higher education.
While it is possible that the nation’s birth rate could increase if government provided a sufficient supporting role for parents and children, those who were born in the next few years would not be ready to enter the work force for at least two decades. We need workers now. The only way to immediately augment the number of workers would be through allowing more legal immigration.
Lower skilled workers are needed for agricultural jobs, butchering and meat packing work, construction jobs, positions in the hospitality industry which is now growing again, truck driving and so forth. High-tech workers are also required. And workers in health care are in great demand. This includes physicians, nurses, and health aides. Shortages of primary care physicians and nurses are particularly acute in many areas of the country.
It should be remembered that high-tech immigrants are responsible for large numbers of America’s patents as well as producing start-up companies. The latter provide jobs for many American workers and help the growth of our economy.
Though there are white nationalists who would like to restrict the number of non-white immigrants and worry about changing demographics, a strong economy is what makes America exceptional and allows it to play an important role on the international stage. In addition to raising immigration quotas, the government should also do whatever is possible to increase domestic birth rates by putting better child care and financial subsidies in place.
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