Navigating the Future of Work: The Role of Immigrant-Origin Workers in the Changing U.S. Economy

Julia Gelatt, Jeanne Batalova, and Randy Capps
Date of Publication: 
October, 2020
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

Drawing on data from the U.S. Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the work of economists, this far-reaching report explores projections on the future of work in the U.S., with special attention to immigrant populations. Immigrant workers were the main source of U.S. labor market growth through 2018 and will likely represent all growth through 2035, but are often not addressed in such projections. Looking over the next ten years at both “jobs of the future” – those projected to grow with low risk of automation or offshoring – and “declining jobs” – those projected to shrink or grow slowly with higher risk of automation or offshoring – the authors examine how first and second generation immigrant-origin fit into each group compared to U.S.-born workers. High-skilled jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or middle-skilled jobs requiring an associate’s degree or vocational training will grow most, especially in health care, education, management and social services, though low-skilled jobs such as home health aide and food service worker are also projected to increase. Immigrant workers face similar prospects as U.S. workers, with 22 percent and 24 percent respectively in growth sector jobs and 26 percent and 29 percent respectively in declining occupations. Both immigrant and U.S.-born Latinos are less likely though than other workers to hold “jobs of the future” and more likely to hold declining jobs. Immigrant-origin workers overall also face disadvantages in being more likely than U.S.-born workers to lack high school degrees and one-third being limited English proficient; many foreign-educated immigrants moreover may need training and credentialing support to meet employer requirements. The uncertain pace of technological change and labor market adaptations further complicate future projections. Workforce development systems, the report concludes, will need to adapt to help both U.S.-born and immigrant workers gain relevant work-related skills and develop career resilience. The report also proposes that policymakers charged with setting immigration levels carefully monitor labor market trends to match supply to demand. The authors also suggest a new temporary-to-permanent “bridge” visa pathway to allow for employer-sponsored immigration across skill levels and better align this process with U.S. workforce needs. (Jeffrey Gross, Ph.D.)

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Gelatt, J., Batalova, J. & Capps, R. (2020, October). Navigating the Future of Work: The Role of Immigrant-Origin Workers in the Changing U.S. Economy. Migration Policy Institute.