As the U.S. job market picks up speed, more U.S. workers are being left behind.
At a time when tens of millions of working-age Americans are unemployed, a record 9.2 million jobs went unfilled in May. Yet businesses continue to seek more foreign worker visas for the sole purpose of importing additional cheap labor.
Since 1970, the percentage of immigrants in the workforce has more than tripled to 30 million, with the heaviest concentrations in construction, transportation and service sectors. Not coincidentally, the rising tide of foreign workers has come with a decades-long stagnation of American wages.
Business hiring practices must take a fundamentally different direction in the post-COVID era but will only change when this country’s immigration policies put U.S. workers first.
With help-wanted signs sprouting across the land, employers need to stop lobbying Congress for more imported labor and start offering competitive pay and benefits to attract, train and develop U.S. workers.
For wages to rise, discounted foreign labor must fall.
Open-ended immigration policies – ranging from the liberal dispensing of work visas to an insecure border overrun by millions of illegal workers -- not only distort the labor market; they perversely denigrate work itself. This is especially true in lower-skill sectors, but extends to skilled professions as well.
Politicians exacerbate the problem with “assistance” programs that retard job seeking, effectively freezing low-skilled Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Take the new $15 billion enhanced child credit, for example. Like so many government schemes, it will yield negative effects – a further reduction in employment and still lower workforce participation.
While a marginally larger allowance may raise a household’s income just above the poverty line, it does nothing to incentivize job searches by parents or sharpen their skills in the workplace.
For the vast majority of low-income families, gainful employment is the only viable path to the middle class. Yet politicians of the open-borders persuasion pretend that an honest day’s labor is somehow optional for Americans. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, infamously coddles those “unwilling to work” with gauzy promises of “economic security.” Others lazily recite the shibboleth about “jobs Americans won’t do.”
Amy Wax, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who studies labor markets, says this “negative feedback loop” engenders family disintegration, drugs, crime, economic despair and alienation.
Wax sees the “corporate addiction to low wages” as a species of post-national bigotry, which enables, even encourages, hiring preferences for imported laborers over native-born Americans. Meantime, productivity lags, service suffers and supply chains strain.
Refuting the notion that the U.S. labor pool isn’t deep enough, or that America doesn’t already have an oversupply of immigrant workers, here are a few revealing statistics from May:
- The number of officially unemployed workers was 7.3 million for native-born Americans and 1.5 million immigrants.
- An additional 45.8 million Americans and 9.4 million immigrants (ages 16-64) were out of the labor force — neither working nor looking for work.
- Excluding persons under age 25, there were still 45.1 million immigrants and natives not working.
(Note: None of these statistics includes illegal aliens, estimated by FAIR to number 14.5 million.)
Rather than making an investment in U.S. human capital, bottom-feeding businesses exploit a global workforce to pad their profits.
This unhealthy dependence on itinerant workers, most from Third World countries, is a bad deal when Americans are idled and the attendant social-welfare costs are piled up on taxpayers.
Human dignity and national unity erode when able-bodied citizens are shunned and denied productive work in their own country.
An essential first step in reversing these pathologies is to turn off the spigot of cheap foreign labor. This means securing the border and reducing work visas.
The Labor Department must do its job to ensure that foreign workers never take positions that can be filled by Americans.
It’s no easy task. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce-libertarian axis aligned with a progressive-left administration makes a powerful political machine. But their agenda does a tremendous disservice to the United States and its people.
There is no good reason why 9.2 million jobs are unfilled while tens of millions of work-eligible, native-born Americans are relegated to the sidelines.
Bob Dane is executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Washington, D.C. Read more here.
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