By Jon Dougherty
If you’re a student of American politics and media, you know that the Left loves to create narratives about issues rather than present them factually so the American people can, via their elected representatives, decide on the best courses of action for our country.
One of the Left’s narratives is that we must have virtually unlimited immigration (legal and otherwise) because, without it, so many American jobs will be impossible to fill.
But a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies soundly refutes that narrative.
One of the many trade-offs inherent to immigration policy is efficiency vs. distribution in the labor market. Importing more workers from abroad can lower the cost of production, but the savings come in large part from holding down wages,” writes the report’s author, Dr. Jason Richwine, Ph.D., a public policy analyst.
“Anyone who claims that immigration offers only benefits or only costs to the labor market is not being honest about the issue. Unfortunately, immigration advocates have a habit of developing exactly those sorts of one-sided talking points,” he continues.
“One of the most prominent right now is the idea of a ‘labor shortage.’ Forget all this talk about trade-offs, they say, employers simply cannot find any more workers without immigration. That claim is false,” Richwine says, adding:
Neither theory nor evidence backs the existence of a “labor shortage”. As discussed below, when employers complain of a “shortage”, they really mean a shortage of people willing to work for the (low) wage that employers would like to pay. The percentage of working-age Americans not in the labor force remains significantly below the level from the year 2000, and employers should strive to bring those potential workers back.
His report makes several key claims:
- Shortages should not occur in a free market.
- Tight labor markets benefit marginalized groups.
- Wages have been stagnant over the long term.
- Labor force participation is down over the long term.
- Domestic industries should hire Americans.
- Natives participate in all major occupations.
- Plenty of STEM* workers are available.
- Gains to the economy are not the same as gains to natives.
- Immigration is not an efficient solution to population aging.
[*Editor’s note: STEM = A person with an educational background in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.]
“Due to population aging, the ratio of workers to retirees in industrialized nations is declining, resulting in lower productivity and strains on social services,” Richwine writes. “This is a genuine long-term problem, but it is not the cause of the ‘labor shortage’ alleged to exist today.”
Another narrative created by the Left to justify unlimited immigration is the myth of “jobs Americans won’t do.” Last year, CIS noted in a separate report that of the hundreds of jobs in the country listed and tracked by the Labor Department, all of them were populated by a majority of American-born workers.
Another immigration reform group, NumbersUSA, cited the report, noting:
After analyzing government data, CIS found that native-born Americans make up a majority of workers among maids and housekeepers (51%), taxi drivers and chauffeurs (54%), butchers and meat processors (64%), grounds maintenance workers (66%), construction (65%), and janitors (73%).
And yet, in July 2018, “the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the Homeland Security spending bill for FY2019 that would permanently exempt certain returning foreign workers from the H-2B annual cap of 66,000,” NumbersUSA noted. “H-2B visas are often used by employers of low-skilled jobs because they claim they can’t find American workers willing to do the work.”
For his part, Richwine says its a myth that in a country of 329 million people there is a “labor shortage” that can only be rectified by importing workers:
Nothing in this report is meant to imply that immigration is entirely costly (or entirely beneficial) to the labor market. As mentioned in the introduction, immigration is fundamentally about trade-offs. Unfortunately, advocates have seized on the idea of a “labor shortage” in order to deny those trade-offs, arguing instead that immigration is necessary to fill jobs that cannot be filled by natives. Neither economic theory nor empirical evidence supports the notion of a “labor shortage”. It’s time to retire this talking point.
And, of course, continued unlimited immigration will have political consequences as well.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10