While immigration policy can be a heated and complex topic, one thing is certain: immigration to the U.S. is simply good business. The influx of young workers, entrepreneurs, and diverse skill sets presents a competitive advantage in the global economy. Immigration helps protect and stimulate our economy by filling worker shortages, increasing workplace diversity, bringing in new skill sets and knowledge bases, and creating jobs.
In-demand skill sets
Anyone who has taken Intro to Economics remembers the basic principles of supply and demand, and that the most efficient economy is one in which supply and demand intersect. When the U.S. has a market shortage for an in-demand skill set, that shortage can be offset by increasing supply with immigrant workers. The benefits of such a system include market efficiency and job creation, but also better medical care and technological breakthroughs. According to the immigration attorney who authored this Forbes article:
“… hospitals, universities and technology businesses … hire foreign workers because they are in desperate need of the skills and training these professionals have. Without these talented immigrants, a patient might not have access to crucial surgery short of traveling a long distance, a critical software project wouldn’t be completed, or a prototype airplane would simply never be designed and manufactured.”
Contrary to the beliefs of some, a job given to an immigrant is not likely a job lost to a U.S. citizen—it is often a job for which we don’t have enough U.S. citizens to meet the demand. We often talk about STEM workers in this context, but perhaps it hits closer to home to know that we have a particular shortage of medical doctors that is predicted to get worse. Encouraging immigration for highly skilled workers in STEM, Medicine, and other fields will help alleviate the burden of these shortages on the U.S. economy.
At the same time, certain worker shortages will not be solved by immigration alone. Particularly in STEM fields, the U.S. is expected to have a shortage of 22 million workers by the year 2022. While immigration may be part of the solution, we must simultaneously encourage U.S.-born children to pursue STEM-related degrees. The shortage goes beyond gender, but a focus on getting more women into STEM fields could pay off faster because the gender gap in STEM degrees is worsening. Overall, we need a multi-pronged approach to ensure the U.S. can continue to compete in the 21st century.
Far from taking jobs away from U.S. workers, a healthy immigration flow has been proven to create more jobs. Considering just 40 of the billion-dollar startups founded by immigrants, 33,000 permanent jobs have been added to the U.S. economy. Not only do entrepreneurs and business owners bring new jobs, all it takes is an immigrant with an advanced STEM degree to generate 2.62 related American jobs.
Hiring immigrants into manual labor jobs has also been shown to create jobs. We have a shortage of manual labor workers in many states, so again we cannot meet the demand with U.S.-born workers. Filling these jobs with immigrants creates and protects jobs in connected fields. For example, for each farm job filled by an immigrant, three jobs are created in related industries.
Innovation through diversity
The jury has long been in on diversification in the workplace: it’s a good thing. The coming together of diverse perspectives can lead to innovative thinking and better decision-making. More recent research indicates racial diversity is important at all levels of an organization—and it makes sense that a diverse workforce would respond better to diverse leadership. Continuous immigration into the U.S. creates a constant flow of varied cultures, knowledge bases, and perspectives.
Do you use PayPal? Hope to someday drive a Tesla? The entrepreneur that brought us these advancements, Elon Musk, hails from South Africa. In fact, 51% of startups now worth $1B or more were founded by someone born outside the U.S. Beyond that, 70% of these startups featured immigrant workers in key roles that led to each startup’s success. If you look down the list of all such startups, you notice repeated entries for founders from India, Canada, Israel, and more.
Immigrants also lead the way with patents and inventions. Immigrants are involved in 76% of patents filed by the top patent-producing American universities. Not to mention all six of the Nobel Prize winners in 2016 were born outside of the U.S. In short, we owe much of our advancement in technology and inventions to those who came to us from other countries. We simply wouldn’t have the tools and opportunities afforded to us today without their contributions.
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