Immigration

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Immigration can affect the labor market in a variety of ways. Immigrants may compete for certain types of jobs, putting downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on unemployment. In some cases, they may be complements to other occupations, raising demand for those jobs. The labor market effects of immigration may vary across location, since immigrants are not evenly spread regionally. On the other hand, regional mobility of native workers and the indirect effect of trade among regions may offset the impact of immigrant concentration.

 

If undocumented, immigrants may pose problems for labor standards enforcement, since individuals without proper papers may be reluctant to complain to government officials about working conditions.  Immigrants in part to overcome language or cultural hurdles - may form informal job information networks, in effect assuming some of the recruitment function normally done by employers. During periods of high unemployment, immigration tends to be elevated as a public policy issue because of job scarcity. Ancillary issues of crime and use of public services - health care, education - also are raised in such periods. Workplace tensions can arise over use of languages other than English on the job.

 

Finally, there are questions concerning the speed of assimilation, particularly generational. Over time, the children of immigrants, and their children, are likely to become more similar to the native workforce in terms of occupation, income, and education. On the other hand, native language skills and other cultural traits may be lost across generations.

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