A debate about border security and how best to reform our
dysfunctional immigration system has raged in Congress, the media
and town hall meetings across the U.S. during the past two years.
However, it has lacked a dispassionate, honest appraisal of the
demographic trends confronting the U.S.
Fixing our immigration system is a thorny proposition and more
difficult if a key piece of the puzzle remains missing. Until U.S.
legislators realize the country has a ticking demographic time
bomb, this puzzle never will be solved.
Two incompatible trends are emerging as the native-born work
force grows older. First, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of
Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the annual growth rate of those 55
years old and older to grow at four times the rate of the overall
labor force during the next decade; this group will leave the labor
force at escalating rates. In contrast, the annual growth rate of
those between the ages of 16 and 54 will be fairly flat. Second,
the U.S. economy keeps generating high labor demand for industries
characterized by jobs that do not require high levels of education.
BLS reports 98 percent of projected employment growth between 2002
and 2012 will be in these industries. BLS also expects employment
in all occupations to rise by 21 million jobs between 2002 and
2012. But because of changing demographics and worker retirements,
there will be 56 million job openings during the decade, or an
average 2.6 job openings for each...
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