Non-IT Sectors Powered by Immigrants

In a previous article, we discussed how immigrants enrich the US tech sector. This time we’ll highlight other industries where migrants give significant contributions.

Household work

US households are the largest employers of migrant workers by percentage of workforce. According to some estimates there were more than two million household workers in the US as of 2019. These migrants possess varying levels of skills. Many work as gardeners, cooks, caretakers, caregivers, sitters, handymen, valets, and so on. A large proportion of domestic workers in the US come from Mexico. They send money to Mexico to support their families back home.

Because of the prevailing economic situation an increasing percentage of households are finding it necessary for both parents to work. The country’s population is aging. 19% of the US population will be comprised of persons aged 65 or more by 2030. There is a constantly rising demand for domestic workers to care for children, the elderly, pets, and properties. The engagement level of a domestic work can vary widely. Some are employed full-time while others work just a couple of hours per week. The involvement can also range from impersonal to extremely personal. For instance caregivers have some of the most involved jobs. Specialized local manpower agencies excel at connecting migrant workers to households in need of domestic professionals. This promises to be an excellent small business idea for many years to come.

Manufacturing

Another major chunk of the migrant worker population in the US is employed in manufacturing, particularly textile and leather. Many garment manufacturers are small to mid-size business that employ anywhere between 5 to 50 workers. There is a clear preference for female migrant workers in some sub-sectors of the garment industry.

Food

There are nearly 2 million agriculture workers in the US, a third of who are migrants. It is notable that a significant percentage of America’s food is produced in factories rather than farms. The distinction between agriculture and industry sometimes becomes ambiguous. As with other large industries in the US, agriculture businesses rely on cost-effective labor to remain profitable. Much of the work is unskilled. The preference for migrant workers in food manufacturing is driven by much of the same reasons as other industries. It is widely acknowledged that the cost and quality of food would be very different had it not been for the contribution of migrant workers in this sector.

Construction

Construction laborers perform the physical tasks required at building sites. The work is physically demanding and often comes with a variety of occupational hazards. The vast majority of construction work does not require formal education or exceptional language skills. The construction sector in the US is projected to grow at 11% for the next 10 years. This growth rate is notably higher than many other sectors. Native-born Americans are less likely to opt for professions in construction. This is why the construction sector is largely powered by migrant workers.

Other sectors

There are many more US industries where migrant workers are employed in significant numbers or percentages. Unlike the IT sectors where migrants are highly skilled and qualified, most of these industries employ lower-skilled and less qualified migrants, although in much larger numbers. They include retail, non-hospital healthcare services, restaurants, hospitality, fisheries, mining, and so on. Each of these industries readily acknowledges the significant contributions of migrant workers. 

Over long decades of working together, the nexus between US industrialists and migrants has become de facto. Industry has come to rely on cost-effective migrant labor. Likewise, migrants’ families in their home countries have come to depend on the steady flow of remittances. It is an important symbiotic relationship which benefits all stakeholders.

Adam Hansen