Among the effects of the COVID pandemic on the U.S. is a serious labor shortage. It contributes to the delivery problem which adds to price inflation. It contributes to production shortages which also aggravate inflation. “Now hiring” signs can be seen all over Pennsylvania and around the country.
The labor shortage in 2022 results from a combination of factors.
- Since the 1970s, the labor force has been riding the wave of baby boomers that sprang up after WWII. That wave crested about a decade ago, so that today most of the baby boomers are retired or retiring.
- The pandemic killed many workers and put even more in the hospitals. Hospitalizations are still high today and rising again, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Many women can’t return to the workforce because they can’t afford child care, even if they can find child care centers in operation. Many centers are closed for lack of employees and customers.
- Low wages. The labor force finds itself in a seller’s market with slightly rising salaries. However, as all the resurgence of strikes around the country show, wages are still extremely low relative to the incomes of CEO’s, presidents, managers and owners.
The Democrats’ Build Back Better bill, if passed by the Senate, may resolve, over time, problems 3 and 4. But that will leave us with the first two, a reduced population of able working age established Americans.
America has traditionally solved shortages in the labor force by increasing immigration. In fact, immigration by people who are willing to work for low wages in boom times has played a significant role in the creation of one of the world’s most powerful economies.
However, we are now in a situation where many Americans, fed Republican propaganda, think that every job given to an immigrant is taken away from an established American worker. This is simply untrue, as the labor shortage proves. America has not been a beacon in the night for people fleeing from oppression because Americans are altruistic. America has become that beacon because U.S. industry and farming thrives on low-wage workers hoping to succeed in a thriving economy.
President Trump rode to victory promising to build an impenetrable fence on the U.S. border with Mexico, blithely ignoring the fact that more immigrants come from Asia than Mexico, borne out by the Pew Research Center. He then demonized Mexicans and other Hispanics as criminals, rapists, drug runners, murderers and terrorists — some sick with COVID, expecting the Mexican government to pay for that wall.
But even before Trump, the most recent immigration acts have restricted immigration. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal to hire or recruit “illegal” immigrants. The last act in 1990 reduced the number of “legal” immigrants to less than 700,000 per year.
Both these acts were restrictions on immigration and what immigrants could do if they get here
The solution to the labor shortage is to provide a short path to citizenship for those who have been here for years and intelligently loosen restrictions on all immigration. If Republicans fear that a majority of the additional immigrants will vote for Democrats, they should show more understanding for what immigrants represent for our culture and economy, and respect them for their contributions.
(Sunbury Daily Item, (December 4, 2021)