Mind the gap

Submitted by Anon on 28 February, 2002 - 11:03

On 1 May hundreds of thousands (and probably more) US immigrant workers will take to the streets to protest against the immigration reform. The US government was to crack down on migrant labour — despite the capitalist reliance on such labour.

One argument used by bourgeois politicians is that migrant labour drives down the wages of US born workers. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows a slightly different picture. There is generalised low pay in the US but also a growing gap in wages between immigrant and US-born workers. This may also be a factor behind the anger and strength of feeling shown by US’s migrant worker population.

In 2000, male immigrants earned, on average, 18.4 percent less per hour than US-born men. (The gap was only 9.3 percentage points in 1980.) Female immigrants earned, on average, 10.7 percent less per hour than US-born women. (The gap was only 3.4 percent in 1980.) In 1980, male immigrants achieved rough earnings parity with US-born male workers after 16-20 years. By 2000, it took male immigrants over 30 years. In 1980, immigrant women typically took 11-15 years before achieving earnings parity with US-born female workers. By 2000, it took them 21-30 years.

The economists’ explanation? Partly they say it is due to the decline in the educational attainment of immigrants relative to US-born workers over the period.

But the rate of exploitation has increased for the majority of workers in the United States — their wage growth for the last 25 years has not kept pace with productivity.

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