A new report on the growing presence of foreign workers in U.S. jobs was recently released by the Brookings Institute. Audrey Singer, the demographer who wrote the report, concludes from the data that, “…our economy is dependent on immigrant labor now and for the future.” She notes that foreign workers now comprise 16.4 percent of the labor force, although they are less than 13 percent of the population. Even more disproportionately, foreign workers represent more than two-fifths (41.5%) of all U.S. labor force growth between 2005 and 2010.
The report’s findings should be looked at with a questioning eye. How much would the recent hiring practices have changed if employers had been required to use the E-Verify system to screen out illegal foreign workers? How would hiring practices have been different if high-tech employers had been required to hire qualified U.S. workers first before hiring foreign workers? How would hiring practices have changed if there were not so many illegal workers available? Would there have been greater recourse to labor-saving technology if not for the presence of so many immigrant workers? These questions are key to deciding whether you agree with Singer’s assertion that our economy is dependent on foreign workers.