« May 2009 | Main | July 2009 »

June 29, 2009

Global trend: multicultural societies due to immigration

Goldman Sachs’s Global Economic Weekly published a summary of “Four Demographic Trends that Will Shape the 21st Century.” The four trends: the birth rate of advanced counties will move slightly up to meet the replacement rate of 2.1 children per household; baby boomers will retire throughout the advanced economies, this pushing way up the percentage of the population over 65; India and Africa will assume a larger share of the world population; and “immigration creates more multicultural societies.”

Here is the fourth trend:

Trend #4: Immigration Creates More Multicultural Societies

One of the defining trends in recent years has been increased immigration flows, mainly from developing to advanced economies. About 12% of the OECD population was foreign-born in 2006, up from 10% in 2000. In Canada and Australia, this figure is now above 20%. Over the past decade, net migration on average has accounted for about 50% of the population growth in the OECD, and close to 100% in countries like Spain and

For the US, high rates of immigration are nothing new. The percentage of the population that was foreign-born in 2008, estimated at about 13%, was slightly below the peak of 15% in the first few decades of the 20th century. However, the current immigration boom is different from the one in the early 20th century in a number of respects.

First, the current generation of immigrants has arrived in the US from a much wider set of countries than in the past. Second, partly reflecting the fact that there are now more
restrictions on legal immigration, there are currently many more undocumented workers living in the US. While estimates of illegal immigration are hard to come by, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are about 12mn undocumented people in the US, or about 30% of the total foreign-born population.

Partly as a result of immigration, the populations of many advanced economies are set to become significantly more diverse. For example, the US Census Bureau estimates
that designated minorities groups, which now account for roughly one-third of the US population, will account for half the population by 2042. By 2023, minorities will
account for 50% of children born in the US. And by 2039, minorities will comprise half the working age population, up from 34% currently.

As we discussed in a recent Global Economics Paper No. 168, “Immigration and the North American Economy”, the recent wave of immigration to the US should boost the overall rate of growth for the economy. And as our US equity strategists outlined in a report in October 2007, “US Hispanization: Long/short strategies”, the growth of the Hispanic population ñ which is expected to increase from 46.7mn in 2008 (15% of the US population) to 132.8mn in 2050 (30% of the US population) offers investors a number of compelling opportunities.

As with previous immigration waves, the full benefits from immigration will be realised only if immigrants and their children acquire the requisite skills to prosper in today’s knowledge-based economy. The pattern in the early 20th century was generally one where children of immigrants quickly absorbed new skills and achieved household incomes that were well above that of their parents and, in many cases, well above the national average. As the box above discusses, while there are grounds for optimism, the educational attainment of immigrant children still lags that of native-born children
in many OECD countries. As such, improving educational outcomes will be vital to maximising the gains from immigration.

June 26, 2009

Immigration reform: Republicans demand guest worker program

At a bipartisan meeting yesterday at the White House on immigration reform, Republicans including John McCain said that a reform bill must include a guest worker program. The New York Times article Obama’s first public meeting on immigration:

Guest Worker Program Poses Obstacle for Obama on Immigration Push
By Jeff Zeleny

President Obama said on Thursday that he was committed to passing a comprehensive immigration plan, but Republicans attending a bipartisan meeting at the White House expressed skepticism a deal could be reached unless Mr. Obama endorsed a guest worker program that Democratic-leaning labor unions oppose.

“What I’m encouraged by is that after all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue,” Mr. Obama said, “we’ve got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now.”

In the State Dining Room, Mr. Obama met with nearly three dozen Democratic and Republican lawmakers for the first substantive discussion on immigration since he took office five months ago. Mr. Obama named a working group to be led by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Mr. Obama singled out his former Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, for his commitment to changing the nation’s immigration system.

“I want to specially commend John McCain who is with me here today,” Mr. Obama said at the end of the closed-door meeting when reporters were briefly allowed inside. “He has already paid a significant political cost for doing the right thing. I stand with him.”

Mr. McCain, speaking to reporters outside the White House, said comprehensive immigration reform has a fresh urgency because of the surge in violence along the border with Mexico. But he suggested a bigger sticking point could be the guest worker program, which he said must be part of any immigration bill.

“I can’t support any proposal that doesn’t have a legal temporary worker program and I would expect the president of the United States to put his influence on the unions in order to change their position,” Mr. McCain said. “Without a commitment to a legal temporary worker program for our high-tech community and agriculture sector, there is no such thing as comprehensive immigration reform.”

As he walked to a waiting car, Mr. McCain said the president needed to stand up to labor unions and show leadership, saying: “That’s why he was elected president.”

With unemployment rising, several labor unions have opposed a temporary guest worker program. The president made no commitments, according to several participants in the room, but has signaled that he is open to discussing such a program. Several Republicans told Mr. Obama that they had taken political heat in their own parties and it was time for him to do the same.

“We’ve got one more chance to do this,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “If we fail this time around, no politician will take this up for a generation.”

June 23, 2009

The nursing shortage, now back in the news

Let’s review where we are with the nursing shortage in the U.S. and immigrant nurses, about which I have posted in the past. A recent Business Week article includes some passages I have inserted below, prefaced by comments by me. Then I cite from an earlier posting by me which includes an estimate that the supply of nurses from the Philippines, by far the largest source of foreign nurses, may be capping out.

The stimulus package included $100 million to enlarge the number of nursing school slots.

First, a new proposal to increase the number of work visas for foreign nurses (which idea Obama has criticized):

“In May, Representative Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) introduced a bill that would allow 20,000 additional nurses to enter the U.S. each year for the next three years as a temporary measure to fill the gap. If the bill doesn't pass on its own, lawmakers may include it in a comprehensive immigration reform package. Obama is slated to meet with congressional leaders on June 25 to discuss reforming U.S. immigration laws.”

And, nursing slots are increasingly being filled by foreigners, in particular from the Philippines:

“As openings have become more difficult to fill domestically, more foreign-born nurses have entered the workforce, most commonly through green cards that lead to permanent residency. In 1994, 9% of the total registered nurse workforce was composed of foreign-born RNs; by 2008 that percentage had risen to 16.3%, or about 400,000 RNs, according to Buerhaus' research. Of those 400,000 nurses, about 10% had immigrated to the U.S. within the previous five years. About one-third of the increase in RNs from 2001 to 2008 was composed of foreign-born RNs.”

Also, nursing union leaders point to poor employment conditions to explain why one fifth of nurses in the U.S. don’t work as nurses. (I wonder about this: aren’t nurses well paid, especially in an economic environment in which households are concerned about income?)

“Understaffing, mandatory overtime, and physically demanding work, such as lifting and bathing patients, take their toll. And while pay has risen in some regions to attract more nurses, in recent years it has flattened at the national level. That's why up to 500,000 registered nurses are choosing not to practice their profession—fully one-fifth of the current RN workforce of 2.5 million.”

And, there are no enough slots in nursing schools to meet the demand. (That assumes that the turned away students are qualified.)

“One point everyone seems to agree on is that the U.S. needs more capacity to train nurses. Since 2002, enrollments at nursing schools have increased so much that up to 50,000 qualified applicants are turned away each year from training programs. The main problem is a lack of teaching staff at these schools. Dan Stultz, president of the Texas Hospital Assn., which represents more than 500 Texas hospitals, helped form the Texas Nursing Workforce Shortage Coalition to push for funding from the state legislature to boost capacity at Texas nursing schools. Stultz says the state has about 22,000 nurse vacancies now, and that the number could rise to 70,000 by 2020. Meanwhile, for the last five years, 8,000 to 12,000 nursing-student applicants have been denied places at training programs for lack of space. 'We have qualified people that get accepted and can't attend,' says Stultz. 'We don't need more immigration; we need to increase capacity and grow our own workforce.' “

From a prior posting on the global nursing shortage:

The Philippines is the leading primary source country for nurses internationally by design and with the support of the government. The 2001–2004 Medium Term Philippines Development plan views overseas employment as a key source of economic growth.16 Filipino nurses are in great demand because they are primarily educated in college-degree programs and communicate well in English, and because governments have deemed the Philippines to be an ethical source of nurses. A motivator for the Philippines to produce nurses for export is remittance income sent home by nurses working in other countries. In 1993 Bruce Lindquist reported that Filipinos working abroad sent home more than $800 million in remittance income.17 No other country produces many more nurses than are needed in their own health care systems at a level of education that meets the requirements of developed countries.

However, the Philippines may be reaching a natural limit in its ability to provide enough nurses for escalating worldwide demand. An estimated 85 percent of employed Filipino nurses (more than 150,000) are working internationally. About one-fourth of the total number of nurses employed in Philippine hospitals (some 13,500) reportedly left for work elsewhere in 2001.18 There has been recent debate that the growing global demand for Filipino nurses is so great that emigration of nurses could be threatening the country’s health care quality.19 It is estimated there are more than 30,000 unfilled nursing positions in the Philippines.20 In 2001 the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Singapore, and United States were the most common destinations for Filipino nurses.21

June 16, 2009

Update on Global Workers Justice Alliance


This NY-based public interest group advocates for the labor rights of immigrant workers. It focuses on building up the capacity of immigrant workers to protect their rights, for example for fair pay, even while back in their country of origin. The Alliance has worked in Mexico and other Central American countries.

Its recent news letter profiles one project involving immigrant workers who worked in planting pine trees in the South:

Partnering with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Global Workers and one of its Defenders in Guatemala ensured that hundreds of workers who planted pine trees in the southern US recovered wages stolen from their paychecks. After SPLC won a lawsuit for the failure to pay minimum wages (which is far less than the wage set by the government for guestworkers) the contractor continued to violate the law.

The contractor was charging exorbitant and unlawful fees to work in the United States, such as a fictitious $500 hotel "security deposit." SPLC asked Global Workers to help them collect testimonies about these illegal charges from the guestworkers who had returned to Guatemala. According to the Director of SPLC's Immigrant Justice Project our "amazing" help secured 50 testimonies and the court held the contractor in contempt ordering the workers to be reimbursed.

Obama to scale back on Real ID

The controversial 9/11 inspired program to federalize the standards for state drivers licenses is being scaled back to a more modest program by the Obama Administration. This program has been fought by many states, and even Janet Napolitano, as governor of Arizona, signed an bill that rejected the program.

According to the Washington Post:

Yielding to a rebellion by states that refused to pay for it, the Obama administration is moving to scale back a federal law passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that was designed to tighten security requirements for driver's licenses, Homeland Security Department and congressional officials said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wants to repeal and replace the controversial, $4 billion domestic security initiative known as Real ID, which calls for placing more secure licenses in the hands of 245 million Americans by 2017. The new proposal, called Pass ID, would be cheaper, less rigorous and partly funded by federal grants, according to draft legislation that Napolitano's Senate allies plan to introduce as early as tomorrow.

The new plan keeps elements of Real ID, such as requiring a digital photograph, signature and machine-readable features such as a bar code. States also will still need to verify applicants' identities and legal status by checking federal immigration, Social Security and State Department databases.

But it eliminates demands for new databases -- linked through a national data hub -- that would allow all states to store and cross-check such information, and a requirement that motor vehicle departments verify birth certificates with originating agencies, a bid to fight identity theft.

Further on….

The rebranding effort follows months of talks with the National Governors Association and poses political risk for Obama as well as Napolitano, a former NGA chairwoman who wants to soothe strained relations with the states without appearing to retreat on a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission.

Commissioners called for federal standards for driver's licenses and birth certificates, noting, 'For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.' Eighteen of 19 terrorist hijackers obtained state IDs, some of them fraudulently, easing their movements inside the country.

But the Bush administration struggled to implement the 2005 law, delaying the program repeatedly as states called it an unfunded mandate and privacy advocates warned it would create a de facto national ID.

As governor of Arizona, Napolitano called Real ID 'feel-good' legislation not worth the cost, and she signed a state law last year opting out of the plan. As secretary, she said a substitute would 'accomplish some of the same goals.'

Eleven states have refused to participate in Real ID despite a Dec. 31 federal deadline.

'The department's goal is to fix, not repeal' Real ID, allowing all jurisdictions to comply by year's end, said a DHS official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity before a formal announcement.

'If the law cannot be implemented, it is hard to claim that it increases security,' said David Quam, lobbyist for the NGA.

The new plan keeps elements of Real ID, such as requiring a digital photograph, signature and machine-readable features such as a bar code. States also will still need to verify applicants' identities and legal status by checking federal immigration, Social Security and State Department databases.

But it eliminates demands for new databases -- linked through a national data hub -- that would allow all states to store and cross-check such information, and a requirement that motor vehicle departments verify birth certificates with originating agencies, a bid to fight identity theft.

Instead, it adds stronger privacy controls and limits such development to a pilot program in Mississippi. DHS would have nine months to write new regulations, and states would have five years to reissue all licenses, with completion expected in 2016.

Supporters saw a slimmer measure as better than nothing. But critics said the changes gut the law, weakening tools to fight fraud and learn whether bad drivers, drug runners or counterfeiters have licenses in more than one state.

'Real ID, not a gutted version with a tough-sounding name, is necessary to continue to keep us safe,' said Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.), the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee. 'Any attempt to repeal or weaken [Real ID] will harm national security.'

The new plan would still let people get licenses with fake documents, said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), who authored the 2005 legislation. 'We go right back to where we were on Sept. 10, 2001,' he said, 'Maybe governors should have been in the Capitol when we knew a plane was on its way to Washington wanting to kill a few thousand more people.'

Pass ID also penalizes states that have spent millions to digitize their records, rewards laggards with federal funds and makes new requirements unenforceable, foes said.

For example, the new bill kills provisions that would have required the new IDs to board airplanes and that IDs that did not comply with the requirements feature a different color or design.

Meanwhile, privacy groups also objected, saying Real ID should just be killed.

'We don't want to end up with National ID Lite,' said Chris Calabrese, counsel to the technology and liberty program at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the plan is 'a lot softer' but will still leave more Americans' personal data subject to theft and misuse.

Sens. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), the bill's sponsors, are seeking support from Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (Maine), the chairman and ranking Republican, respectively, on the Senate homeland security committee, and other centrist lawmakers. So far, no other Republicans have signed on.

Spotlight on immigrants in Virginia

According to a new study by the Immigration Policy Center, “The foreign-born share of Virginia’s population rose from 5.0% in 1990, to 8.1% in 2000, to 10.3% in 2007….6.4% of all registered voters in Virginia are “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965

This is one of several state-focused studied highlighting the mainstream participation of immigrants in society and the economy. I have posted before on studies about Texas and New Jersey.

Highlights from the study:

Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for large and growing shares of both the economy and the electorate in Virginia. Immigrants make up more than 10% of the state’s population, and 44% of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote.

1 in 10 Virginians are immigrants or the children of immigrants.

The foreign-born share of Virginia’s population rose from 5.0% in 1990, to 8.1% in 2000, to 10.3% in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

43.8% of immigrants in Virginia were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2007—meaning that
they are eligible to vote.

The Latino share of Virginia’s population grew from 2.6% in 1990, to 4.7% in 2000, to
6.5% in 2007. The Asian share of the population grew from 2.5% in 1990, to 3.7% in 2000, to 4.8% in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Latinos comprised 5% of Virginia voters in the 2008 electorate.

Latinos comprised 5% of Virginia voters in the 2008 elections, and Asians 3%, according to CNN exit polls. Barack Obama defeated John McCain among Latino voters in Virginia by 72% to 27%.

Naturalized Citizens Excel Educationally.

In Virginia, 45.5% of foreign-born persons who were naturalized U.S. citizens in 2007 had a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared to 34.1% of noncitizens. At the same time, only 12.6% of naturalized citizens lacked a high-school diploma, compared to 26.6% of noncitizens.

June 7, 2009

A note on E-Verify

The Obama Administration has been promoting E-Verify, the now-voluntary program for employers to ascertain the legal status of employees and job applicants to work in the country. A recent news article reported that "in prepared remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, Napolitano said E-Verify’s accuracy was continually improving, and more than 122,000 employers use the system."

"She defended the system's accuracy by explaining its statistics this way: The most recent surveys found that 96.1 percent of cases queried through the system automatically authorized the employees for work, and 3.9 percent showed a mismatch or a tentative non-confirmation. Also, only 0.4 percent of the total number of candidates had successfully contested an adverse initial decision about their eligibility, while the other 3.5 percent remained ineligible."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerse has sued to stop the federal government from requiring use of E-Verify by federal contractors.

Immigration reform prospects are up

An article in the Congressional Quarterly explains why immigration reform has a better chance of passage today than in recent past. Tomorrow, June 8, Obama meets with a bipartisan group of congressman and senators to set the stage for legislative action. In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are in close agreement on most issues.

Republican John Cronyn of Texas opposed reforms in 2006 and 2007 and appears now in favor of a compromise. McCain has been silent and Kennedy is not longer involved in immigration.

The 2008 election results shifted Congress mor towards reforms. Hispanic voters went from 5.4% of the electorate in 2000 to 7.4% in 2008. They may have provided the margin in states where Republicans lost seats, such as New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia. Also, moderate or more reform republican senators were not punished in their re-election fights.

The 2008 strengthened the Democratic majority in the House. The key house member on immigration now is Democrat Lois Gutierrez from Illinois, who has been working his colleagues to pass a bill this year.

Organized labor is shifted somewhat more towards reform. The AFL-CIO, which stayed of the reform fights in 2006 and 2007, has signed on with the SEIU to support the idea of an official commission which would monitor the labor market and determine changes in visa policy. The cosmetics of this shift by the AFL-CIO is more important than the actual content.

Religious groups, such as evangelicals, are showing more support for reform.

June 3, 2009

New California program to assist in workers comp benefits

Many illegal immigrants work for companies who cheat by not taking out workers compensation insurance. These include farms, construction firms, and restaurants. When the worker has an injury, she or her is left in legal limbo to get coverage for medical treatment and disability payments.

While this is a pretty small issue for workers as a whole, it is a very real problem for illegal workers as they are naturally afraid to seek legal help. To help low income immigrant workers in the country, one has to address access problems in the workers comp system.

A California coalition, which I had a hand in launching several years ago, has brought about a new policy which will provide legal assistance to workers even if they are undocumented.

The coalition, the Workers Compensation Enforcement Collaborative, was put together by activist organizations, such as the Watsonville Law Center, and main stream workers comp experts, such as Bill Zachry, the risk manager of California’s largest private sector employer, Safeway. Also, law enforcement organizations are involved.

Below is the press release dated 5/28/09 of the new policy.

Department of Industrial Relations partners with community based organizations to provide extra assistance to injured workers
Pilot project in Salinas will help identify illegally uninsured employers

The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) have teamed up with the Watsonville-based Workers’ Compensation Enforcement Collaborative (WCEC) to overcome hurdles faced by injured workers seeking benefits when their employers are illegally uninsured. The DWC’s Information and Assistance (I&A) Unit in Salinas has been planning with WCEC members and others and, on June 1, will launch a “customer service initiative” pilot project designed to help these injured workers get benefits while shining a spotlight on their illegally uninsured employers.

“Bringing DIR’s divisions together in partnership with community advocates exponentially increases our effectiveness every step along the way,” said DIR Director John Duncan. “Pooling our resources allows us to better serve injured workers from the moment they walk in the door. At the same time we are helping ensure fraudulent employers face prosecution. It’s the best way to keep the playing field level.”

The focus of the Salinas “customer service initiative” pilot project is to expand existing services to unrepresented injured workers who need help identifying the parties responsible for providing them with workers’ compensation benefits, and in securing benefits from the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund (UEBTF) should the responsible parties fail to provide necessary coverage.

“Getting benefits from this fund can be a complex process, and one that is daunting for people who’ve already been denied their basic rights,” said DWC acting Deputy Administrative Director Destie Overpeck. “We are proud to partner with workers’ advocates who recognize the importance of helping individuals with limited resources get the medical and disability benefits they deserve. This is how government should work.”

In addition to receiving supplementary training in investigations, beginning June 1, the I&A office in Salinas will have access to Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB) coverage information and enhanced resources. The newly acquired information and resources will enable the I&A officer to identify an employer and determine whether the employer has proper insurance coverage. Once an employer is accurately identified, the I&A officer will assist workers and make it easier for them to serve court papers against illegally uninsured employers. Besides getting benefits to the injured worker, the desired outcome is that uninsured employers will be systematically reported to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, the Department of Insurance, and local district attorney’s offices for fraud investigation.

Under California law it is a crime for an employer to not have workers’ compensation insurance or permission to be self-insured. Illegally uninsured employers are subject to prosecution, imprisonment, and penalties.

“Those employers identified through this project who have not provided workers’ compensation insurance to their employees will be targeted for prosecution to the full extent permitted by law by the Department of Insurance and by the District Attorneys who are participating in the Fraud Commission’s anti-fraud program,” said Bill Zachry, chair of the Fraud Assessment Commission.

In addition to the DIR and its divisions, members of the WCEC include the Watsonville Law Center, the Department of Insurance (DOI) Fraud Division, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Monterey County Offices of the District Attorney, the Fraud Assessment Commission, Kaiser Permanente, the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC), U.C. Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor & Employment, the WCIRB, Salud Para La Gente, Worksafe, La Raza Centro Legal, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) and the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA).

DWC will be collecting information during the Salinas “customer service initiative” pilot project to determine whether similar efforts at other I&A offices across the state would be effective.

The WCEC is a statewide collaborative of government and non-profit agencies committed to eliminating unique barriers faced by agricultural and other low-wage immigrant workers in the workers’ compensation system. The overall goal of the collaborative is to improve workers’ access to workers’ compensation benefits through reporting and enforcement and the development of more effective statewide policies.