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The United States of America is a massive, diverse country, boasting a population of roughly 331 million people as of 2021. That’s a lot of people working a lot of jobs that contribute to the U.S. economy. In a 2019 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 28.4 million immigrant workers (or 17.4%) made up the U.S. labor force. With such a significant number, one would think that there are ample employment opportunities for immigrants to the U.S. However, in order to find and secure employment here, you must take many factors into consideration. To help you find a job that aligns with your experiences and interests, check out our research below into the realities of working as an immigrant in the U.S.
In which industries do immigrants work?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that immigrants were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in service occupations or manual labor jobs like construction and maintenance, or even logistics work. Conversely, this population is also less likely than native-born workers to be employed in professional or management positions and sales or office occupations. However, the current global pandemic and social movement against systemic racism in the U.S. have forced employers to take a hard look at how they manage their businesses and the people working for them. A significant push for diversity policies means new opportunities have opened up in many areas of what was previously a more exclusionary workforce.
What about training?
Many immigrant workers are stuck in low-skilled jobs due to their limited English proficiency. Immigrant workers also have a lower median annual wage when compared to their native-born counterparts. Thankfully, studies have shown that companies and states investing in upskilling, educating, and naturalizing immigrant citizens have guaranteed economic benefits ranging from increased tax revenue to decreased government support expenditures. A large pool of immigrant workers with untapped talents and skills are ready to be trained for positions of a higher level and with a higher wage.
What if I have a degree?
While low-skilled workers often find themselves in labor or service positions, immigrants with higher education and language skills are more likely to be employed in mid- and high-skilled jobs (though still less than native-born workers.) However, many of those with degrees or advanced training often settle for jobs that do not align with their education or for which they are overqualified. There is some hope, however: according to a February 2020 article from the Pew Research Center, there has been a rising trend in high-skilled jobs among specific subsets of immigrant workers.
When looking at immigrants in the U.S. workforce, one thing is clear: immigrants face many challenges. Your level of English proficiency and education are determining factors in the type of available jobs and wages you will find. The job market is also seeing a movement towards matching skilled workers with jobs that align with their background and educational experiences. So if you have a minimal number of skills, now is the time to look into training and support as the conversation around protecting the immigrant workforce reaches its peak.
In addition, while the amount of support to non-English speaking immigrants is still a challenge, there are some solutions for this population to explore. Thankfully, recent social and political events have shed light on the important contributions our foreign-born workforce have made to the U.S. job market as they continue to show up for work in order to support themselves and their families.
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