The Partnership for a New American Economy and Partnership for New York City today released the results of a first-ever comparative study of how foreign countries are shaping immigration policies to boost their economies, while the United States remains mired by a broken immigration system that turns away the high and low-skilled workers it needs for continued economic growth. The report – “Not Coming to America: Why the US is Falling Behind in the Global Race for Talent” – also details common-sense reforms to U.S. immigration policy that are necessary to boost the nation’s economy. The report was released today by Partnership for a New American Economy Co-Chair New York City Mayor Bloomberg as part of a panel discussion with Mexican businessman and philanthropist Ricardo B. Salinas, British Consul-General Danny Lopez and moderated by Washington Post columnist Matt Miller, an advisor to the report, at The New York Forum.
“America has always been a magnet for the world’s most talented and hardest working – our success has been built on immigrants who have powered our industries and started new ventures that today rank among the world’s leading companies” said Mayor Bloomberg. “But we are quickly losing our edge as other countries adopt smarter economic-driven immigration policies. The future is on the line – now is the time to reform the system and welcome the workers who will continue our success as the world’s leading economy.”
“Fundación Azteca America is dedicated to representing the U.S. Latino community on issues such as education, health and the economy,” said Ricardo B. Salinas. “This study shows once again that more strategic immigration policies contribute to job creation. Given the current economic climate, now is the time to move on policies that will increase business opportunities and mobility of the global workforce.”
“New York City is beginning to lose jobs to foreign competitors with business-friendly immigration policies,” said Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City. “Our City’s business leaders agree with Mayor Bloomberg that immigration reform belongs at the top of the national agenda.”
US Immigration Policy Does Not Address Economic Risks Ahead
The report identifies three major risks facing the U.S. economy if it does not reform its immigration laws: a shortage of workers in innovation industries, a shortage of young workers and slow rates of business startup and job creation. As jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) increase three times faster than other jobs, there are not enough American students entering these fields. The U.S. also faces a shortage of workers as baby boomers retire en masse, and growth in the labor force slows to historic lows of less than one percent. Finally, while new businesses are the biggest driver of job creation, the most recent U.S. Census data shows that business startups have reached a record low.
Gap between STEM jobs and Native-Born STEM Graduates
There is a significant gap between the kind of graduates the U.S. is producing and what the American economy needs today and for the future. U.S. companies are hungry for talent with degrees in STEM – these jobs are increasing three times faster than jobs in the rest of the economy. However, these positions are among the hardest to fill because of the dearth of native-born Americans with these degrees. There are five times as many non-STEM graduates than STEM graduates in the U.S. and the growth rate of American students majoring in STEM fields is among the slowest of any category. As a result, the U.S. faces a projected shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree STEM workers by 2018.
Immigrants, on the other hand, are more likely to be trained in STEM fields. Many of the students who are studying STEM fields in America were born elsewhere. About 60 percent of all foreign graduate students in the United States in 2010 were enrolled in science and engineering fields.
The disparity between the type of jobs available and the type of workers ready to fill the labor market is true across the economic and skill spectrum. It is clear that in the future foreign-born workers must fill the gap between jobs available and the workers needed to do those jobs.
Foreign Nations’ Immigration Policies Foster Economic Growth
In contrast to U.S. immigration policy, which is not designed to bring in the workers needed for today’s and tomorrow’s economy, the study explores the recruitment strategies Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Singapore and the United Kingdom are employing to attract the workers needed to grow their economies. These include:
- Prioritizing economic goals in immigration policy by providing a high percentage of visas based on economic reasons.
- Competing to lure highly educated labor by designing fast-track permanent visas for immigrants with advanced degrees, especially those in STEM fields.
- Tailoring visas to specific sectors and regions in the country by allowing local regions to determine their immigration needs and tailor programs accordingly.
- Expediting processing and facilitating integration by investing in customer service, faster processing and language classes to help new immigrants integrate.
- Tapping the international student pipeline by creating visas to keep foreign students earning advanced degrees from their universities.
- Competing for entrepreneurs and investors by establishing new visas designed to attract entrepreneurs with business ideas and investors with assets.
- Recruiting expatriate talent by persuading native-born scientists and business leaders to return with offers of bonuses, free housing, tax incentives and more.
- Adapting to changing conditions by making major changes or adding new programs to meet economic needs.
British Consul-General Danny Lopez commented on his country’s immigration reforms to attract workers: “Recent UK reforms show that it is possible to control migration without damaging the economy. We know how important it is to be able to attract the best and the brightest to ensure our companies remain competitive and we secure investment in the UK. That is why the UK has reformed routes for entrepreneurs and investors, providing more flexibility and faster routes to settlement.”
Former Toronto Mayor David Miller, an advisor to the study, also remarked on Canada’s recruitment strategies: “To remain a global leader, America should recruit immigrants with the right skills to fill jobs where they are needed. Countries like Canada encourage regions and businesses to identify skills needed in their local labor markets. In a global competition for talent, this approach ensures that immigrants with the right skills for the economy are chosen, and helps to ensure that the needs of Canadian employers are met quickly, easily, and fairly.”
Case Studies: Talented Workers Lured Abroad by Recruitment Strategies
The report also tells the stories of individuals recruited to other countries by immigration reforms that made it easy for them to contribute to their new country’s economy. These case studies give voice to how effective the recruitment strategies have been in luring the kind of workers that create economic growth.
“Unlike the US, no companies [in Singapore] even seem to worry about possible visa complications when interviewing you for positions here… There’s no real doubt that that aspect of things will work out,” said Swedish native Poyan Rajamand, a Stanford University Graduate School of Business graduate and entrepreneur who moved to Singapore using the Employment Pass, a special visa for high-skilled immigrants. “We found the whole visa system here to be extremely easy…It’s how you imagine the US once was: There’s a real energy here around attracting the world’s best and brightest.”
Rajamand and his wife found jobs and in 2010, he also took advantage of EntrePass, a special visa that allows foreigners with $50,000 in funding and a promising new business concept to enter or stay in Singapore as entrepreneurs. With a former Stanford classmate, Rajamand founded Barghest Partners, a firm that invests in small companies and helps them achieve a broader reach.
Another example in the report is native Italian Claudio Carnino, who had his mind set on becoming an entrepreneur in the US and in 2010, he made it to a final round interview for a prestigious start-up incubator in Providence, Rhode Island. However, because there is no US visa dedicated to foreign entrepreneurs, Carnino was told that investment in his company would be risky because of fear that he might be pushed out of the US later if he couldn’t secure a permanent visa.
He found a more welcoming environment in Chile: in 2011 his start-up, a cell-phone game development company called Challengein, was chosen for Start-Up Chile, a program that gave him $40,000 seed funding, free office space and a visa. “They treat us like superstars here,” said Carnino.
Recommendations to Fix US Immigration System for Economic Growth
While other countries have adopted policies to attract immigrants necessary to drive economic growth, the basic policy framework governing immigration in America has remained unchanged for nearly fifty years. The U.S. can no longer afford to take a back seat in the race for the workers it needs with an antiquated immigration policy. The report concludes by recommending six immigration reforms the U.S. can adopt to resume its position as the magnet for the world’s most talented and necessary workers:
- Provide visas to the STEM graduates educated in American universities.
- Award more green cards based on economic needs.
- Create a visa program for foreign entrepreneurs to build their firms in the US
- Let American companies hire the highly educated workers they need.
- Give industries that depend on workers just starting up the economic ladder, such as agriculture and tourism, access to foreign workers when they cannot find Americans to fill jobs.
- Allow local governments to recruit more immigrants to meet regional needs.
About the Partnership for a New American Economy
The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 400 Republican, Democratic, and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. The Partnership’s members include mayors of more than 35 million people nationwide and business leaders of companies that generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than 4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High Tech, and Media to Manufacturing. Partnership members understand that immigration is essential to maintaining the productive, diverse, and flexible workforce that America needs to ensure prosperity over the coming generations. Learn more at: www.renewoureconomy.org.
About the Partnership for New York City
The Partnership for New York City works to engage the business community in efforts to advance the economy of New York City and maintain the city’s position as the center of world commerce, finance and innovation. The Partnership’s investment fund contributes directly to projects that create jobs, improve economically distressed communities and stimulate new business creation. Learn more at: www.pfnyc.org.