Advancing Employment-Based Immigration Reform Is More Critical Than Ever
America is engaged in an intense global competition for talent. In developed economies, demand for high-skilled labor is growing faster than supply, with 38 to 40 million fewer workers with advanced education than employers will need worldwide.[i] U.S. corporations, universities, research institutions, small businesses and start-ups must increasingly compete with organizations around the world to hire and retain talent. In fact, one half of organizations indicate difficulty recruiting for full- time positions in the past 12 months[ii] (see Figure 1). These organizations report difficulty filling specific jobs (see Figure 2) and 5 million positions remain open (see Figure 3).
Many factors influence America’s workforce competitiveness, including the skills gap and our aging workforce. There is no single path to maximizing workforce competitiveness in our 21st century economy. Rather, a sustainable workforce solution must include a diverse array of programs and public-private partnerships, including investment in education and training to prepare workers for the jobs of today – and tomorrow; inclusion of groups that are currently underrepresented in the workforce; initiatives to encourage voluntary adoption of flexible and family-friendly work policies; and employer-friendly immigration policies.
“The skills gap is the defining business challenge of our time. … On the one hand … we have more than 9 million people … who are unemployed. But on the other hand … we have … 5 million jobs … that are now open … that cannot be filled.”
Henry G. “Hank” Jackson, President and CEO, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), February 2015
Smart immigration reform will create jobs, spark innovation and, ultimately, strengthen the economy. Employers uniformly recognize that immigration is a key component of the broader talent equation. In 2014, 86 percent of employers reported that the ability to obtain visas in a timely, predictable and flexible manner is critical to their business objectives, up from 70 percent in 2013 (see Figure 4). However, employers that rely on the U.S. immigration system remain frustrated because it takes too long and costs too much when compared to the rest of the world (see Figure 5). Even after the latest round of debate in Washington and executive action by President Barack Obama, the immigration system requires foundational reform, and U.S. employers cannot afford to wait.
In light of the global competition for talent, governments around the world are struggling to manage employment-based immigration. Some governments have embraced policies that facilitate and encourage the immigration of highly educated professionals in order to address economic and demographic trends and spur growth. Others have pursued policies that restrict immigration, sometimes inadvertently, and present challenges for employers. These varied immigration policy approaches provide lessons for developing a pragmatic immigration system that works for employers in the United. As U.S. policymakers consider much-needed immigration reform, they should heed these policy lessons.
More than two decades have passed since significant reform of the U.S. immigration system. At one time, our system was the envy of the world. Now it is widely acknowledged that our system is broken. America can and must do better. By fixing the problems that exist today, while building a framework that is flexible enough to meet the workforce needs of tomorrow, we can once again benefit from an immigration system that is the envy of the world.
“With the pace of change in the marketplace for global talent – and complexity of the regulatory environment across countries – it is critical to have access to the most current information and the analysis employers need to use it. The Council for Global Immigration provides exactly the information and analysis required.”
- Austin T. Fragomen Jr., Chair, CFGI, March 2015
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