The dramatic drop in the number of temporary immigrant work visas during the pandemic could have cost the United States at least $82 billion a year in 2020 and 2021, according to a study of experts from Rice University in Texas.
The closure of embassies and consulates as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions caused an estimated 2 million working-age migrants to no longer be issued visas in the US, negatively influencing the availability of workers.
After a record 813,330 temporary work visas granted by the US government in 2019, the total dropped to 566,000 in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The figure remained at 566,001 in 2021, according to data of the Department of State.
The reduction in the number of temporary work visas for immigrants “damaged the economy of the United States,” said the economist and researcher at Rice University José Iván Rodríguez-Sánchez, in a Article published in The Conversation, an independent source of analysis and commentary from academic experts. According to his calculations, “the total cost was close to 0.4% of the annual domestic gross domestic product, at least 82,000 million dollars per year in 2020 and 2021”.
Immigrants are the labor force that usually occupies positions called essential or front line, mostly with a high physical requirement and low pay. Many turn to the informal market to survive.
Data from the United States Chamber of Commerce estimate that the closure of businesses during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic caused some 30 million workers to lose their jobs, a situation that two years later has already improved, although not entirely.
In 2021, the US saw an unprecedented increase of 3.8 million jobs to those already available, however, the millionaire figures of resignations have caused a gap between supply and demand to remain.
Last July, the US labor market had 10.7 million jobs and only 5.7 million unemployed. That’s more than 3 million fewer workers compared to February 2020, according to the US Chamber of Commerce.
“Unless the US reverses course of action and grants more work visas, we estimate that the labor shortage will double to more than 4 million by 2030,” insisted the specialist in immigration and economics Rodríguez-Sánchez in the Article.
Some 4.3 million people of working age left their jobs in what has been called the “great resignation”, a trend that began in July 2020 in the United States and has since been replicated around the world. The vast majority have cited dissatisfaction with their employment conditions and salary as the main reasons.
Lots of businesses today keep “We’re Hiring” signs in their windows and some even offer bonuses of up to $1,000 as an incentive.
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