An article titled “People Over Robots (The Global Economy Needs Immigration Before Automation),”  written by Lant Pritchett and published in the March/April 2023 issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine, argues that concerns about automation taking jobs from humans are overemphasized. According to Pritchett, the real solution to labor market challenges lies in immigration, not in further investments in automation. The author suggests that increasing immigration is crucial to ensuring economic growth and meeting labor demands, particularly in sectors such as healthcare and construction. In this blog post, I will explain certain points and provide further evidence for discussion.
First, the global economy and labor market are experiencing major shifts in job allocation, driven by technological innovations such as automation and artificial intelligence. While these developments hold enormous potential to enhance productivity and improve living standards, they also pose significant challenges to the labor market. In turn, labor market challenges can have significant implications for democratic societies. As scholar Robert Dahl explored in Democratization and Public Opposition, economic instability, income inequality, and job loss can threaten democracy . In How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, the authors also explore how these factors lead to social dislocation, contributing to political polarization and extremism . Therefore, concerns are growing about the impact of automation on jobs, wages, and economic inequality. At the same time, demographic shifts and inflation are creating a labor shortage in the USA. To overcome this labor shortage and economic instability, the article written by Pritchett promotes immigration over automation.
Nowadays, against this backdrop, immigration is becoming a critical aspect of addressing these challenges. However, the immigration waves around the world are subject to debate by all governments and populations.
One of the primary arguments against immigration is that it takes jobs away and hurts the wages of native-born workers. However, Pritchett argues that immigration can boost economic growth particularly in sectors such as healthcare and construction. Pritchett also points out that the net impact of immigration on the average wages of domestic workers in the United States was either zero or, more likely, slightly positive. . Moreover, immigration can also help address demographic challenges in countries where the birthrate is declining, ensuring that there are enough workers to sustain economic growth. Additionally, immigrants who start new businesses can also create more job opportunities for the country. According to a report by the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants have started more than half of the current crop of U.S. “unicorns,” including companies such as Uber, WeWork, and SpaceX . This data shows how immigrants participate in and benefit the country’s economy as well as debunks the common myth that immigrants drain social services and resources. In fact, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, immigrants contribute more than $300 billion to the economy each year .
On the other hand, immigration critics are more in favor of automation over immigration. For example, the US is experiencing a political backlash against immigration with anti-immigrant sentiment being stoked by right-wing populist movements. Moreover, some critics argue that increasing immigration could lead to cultural clashes and social tensions, particularly if immigrants are not well integrated into their host communities. Nonetheless, these concerns and challenges should not overshadow the economic and social benefits of immigration over automation. Policymakers should work to address these challenges through better integration policies and stronger protections for immigrant workers . By doing so, countries can ensure that they have the workers they need to sustain economic growth, while also promoting social cohesion that in turn will prevent the rise of extremist political movements. While increasing immigration is not without its challenges, policymakers should recognize the significant economic and social benefits that immigration can provide and work to address the challenges associated with integrating and protecting immigrant workers.
References: Pritchett, L., Bahar, D., & Segal, A. (2023, February 28). People Over Robots: The Global Economy Needs Immigration Before Automation. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/global-economy-immigration-before-automation-people-over-robots  Dahl, R. A. (1971). Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. Yale University Press.  Levitsky, Steven, and Daniel Ziblatt. How Democracies Die. New York: Crown, 2018.  ANDERSON, S. (2018, October 1). National Foundation for American Policy. NFAP. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from https://nfap.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-BILLION-DOLLAR-STARTUPS.NFAP-Policy-Brief.2018.pdf  Report Assesses the Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration. (2016, September 21). National Academies. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2016/09/new-report-assesses-the-economic-and-fiscal-consequences-of-immigration
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Tomás Cruz Villalvazo
Hello Laura, I am taken away and impressed by your blog post. I enjoyed reading about this perspective, especially as there seems to be a labor trend for automatization. Recalling a Washington Post article from 2022, there were strong mentions of labor shortages, inflation, and a general shift of consumers from spending on goods to focusing on spending on services . This dynamic, without a doubt, requires more labor to meet the shortage of these services and will reluctantly fall upon an increase in workforce labor. However, sectors affected by these changes, to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are the manufacturing Industry, wholesale and retail trade, education, and health services, only to name a few that have major labor openings and shorter labor to fill them, and according to the same article argues that remote working changed the game which could explain the shift for automatization and immigration . I agree that the debate on immigration over automation is far more critical than ever before, and you mention the benefits are better for boosting economic growth, increasing population growth for workers, and creating more businesses from immigration. Which additionally fulfills labor shortages and bolsters a clear solution rather than full automatization. However, I think that the government, especially policymakers, could begin to implement better policies and stronger protections for immigrants and their families and better reflect the direction of their economy and immigration policy and create social cohesion. as you mentioned by Dahl and Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, a well-functioning democracy must address income, inequality, and job loss, or otherwise lead to social dislocation or political polarization and extremism, which is occurring now. Since it’s evident that immigration policies aren’t considering the movement of this workforce and accessibility to become integrated into the labor market. Especially in the case of DACA recipients and their families, as they pursue higher education and form careers that benefit the US, they have ultimately barricaded due to inconsistent policy and restrictions for citizenship . I think policymakers must move from polarization and Anti-immigrant platforms to building and integrating the immigration workforce alongside the move for automatization of certain industries that will still require labor demands. Your article provided an amazing introspective into this debate, and I will continue to investigate and look out for advancements that seek to improve immigration over automation.
This post was a very interesting read. Much of the known discussions on the issue of the future of jobs only mention the push of automation as if it is more convenient. I appreciate the fact that you added how immigration boosts the economy which shows a good counterargument against the typical “immigration takes away jobs” argument. Some of the anti-immigration arguments mention that immigration could cause cultural conflict, but economically a problem like this does not outweigh the economic benefits, which was also mentioned in the post. Overall this was an interesting read as this is something I have not considered before. Alongside that, the question I pose is whether or not the American party ideals on immigration would affect this future ecnomy?
Hey Laura B, I love the topic you have chosen to write about! I’m very interested in AI and it’s blinded me of the reality that there is a labor shortage for lower income jobs. Your post is extremely well written!
I don’t think automation will be able to accomplish service or other lower socioeconomic jobs. However, many analytical jobs in software development, finance, and accounting will be affected by AI. This job market isn’t one that is often filled by uneducated immigrants. Did the article you read specifically references educated or uneducated immigrants? Could you specify what parts of the job market are affected by immigration and by AI?
You make great points about the dangers of back lash with populist leaders. As you claim, a large population of immigrants entering a domestic work force can have a negative implication on domestic will. Populist leaders can gain the support of many native-born Americans who don’t want their jobs to be taken away from them. Theses workers aren’t focused on post materialistic values. In other words, their personal values aren’t focused on fighting climate change, among others. Instead they are focused on making an income that allows them to live comfortably. This cultural difference is where backlash is created. When a populist leader takes this cultural difference between domestic workers with materialistic values and post materialist values and ties it to elites allowing immigrants to take their jobs, it’s easy for populist leaders to gain a strong following. On the other hand, educated and uneducated immigrants are an essential portion of the work force in the USA. So although I agree that having a strong functioning work force is vital to democracy, there has to be a balance or else it could lead to democratic backsliding due to populism.
I love how you finished your discussion about immigration by stating that its vital to advocate for immigration while limiting excessive amounts of immigration that could lead to cultural backlash. You make a very important claim that it’s also vital to protect immigrants form cultural challenges and disenfranchisement.
I was very intrigued by your post because I’ve been learning about the labor market in my intermediate macroeconomics class this semester, and this is something that we talked about in class for a while; or the role that different types of labor have on the labor market itself. Overall, I thought your post was very interesting to read! I find the debate over immigration within [American] society very annoying, but it’s become a huge issue in modern politics, and for a somewhat big reason: immigrants being withheld or included in the labor force could make or break the economy. The U.S. holds a huge immigrant population, with around 14% of the U.S. population stating some sort of immigrant status. In my personal belief, withholding immigrants from the workforce or stopping withholding citizenship from more immigrants is bad for the economy, and the potential that they hold is huge (as you’ve said).
Automation within the workforce somewhat scares me, but I don’t think it poses a huge threat to workers within the country. More recently, I think that jobs like cashiers or receptionists are the most susceptible to automation and these jobs do happen to be lower income jobs, but they are still income. Automation, while it destroys jobs, also creates jobs for those who are able to work the often complex tech and machines that these robots are. It truly is a difficult topic to discuss, because I feel like nobody really knows what is going to happen, but we can always make educated guesses. I really enjoyed your closing statement when you said “policymakers should recognize the significant economic and social benefits that immigration can provide and work to address the challenges associated with integrating and protecting immigrant workers”. I feel that how policy makers react to potential increased immigration will have a large effect on how the U.S. economy reacts.