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Labor Market Transformation: The Role of U.S. Immigration Policy

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[Excerpt] As the United States enters the last decade of the 20th Century, its labor market is in a state of transformation. A marked break has occurred in both the evolutionary patterns of employment growth (i.e., labor demand) and in the growth and composition of the labor force (i.e., labor supply). Unprecedented adjustment requirements are being placed upon the U.S. labor market. In such an environment, there can be no assumption that the labor force can automatically adjust to the changes. Policy priority should be given to comprehensive programmatic efforts to develop the employment potential of the nation's human resources. These efforts should include the following policy components: (1) programs to salvage the considerable number of citizens who are already economically redundant (i.e., the long term unemployed, the would-be workers who are discouraged from seeking employment, the working poor, and the growing societal underclass who see little reward from seeking jobs in legitimate economic sectors); (2) programs to prevent currently qualified workers from becoming unemployed as conditions change by providing opportunities for upgrading their knowledge and skills, and to assist qualified workers who wish voluntarily to relocate from labor surplus to labor shortage areas; and (3) programs designed to improve the quality and retention capabilities of the nation's educational and training systems to prepare the future labor force for the emerging job requirements. Ideally, it would only be after such comprehensive labor market adjustment programs were in place and operational that the nation would turn to a small, targeted immigration policy to meet demonstrated gaps that the labor market that cannot fill in the short run. Unfortunately, the ideal is not the extant situation.

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labor market; United States; employment; immigration; public policy; labor supply; labor demand


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Required Publisher Statement: Copyright by the Human Sciences Press. Final article published as Briggs, V. M., Jr. (1990). Labor market transformation: The role of U.S. immigration policy. Population & Environment, 12(1), 81-92.

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