shutterstock_102597137Over the next two decades, as the baby boom generation continues entering retirement, we will experience the largest exodus from the workforce by any generational cohort in American history. This wave of retirees will create a labor force deficit among the millions of jobs baby boomers depart from on top of new job growth industries create. Amid this great demographic shift, immigrants and their children are poised to play a critical role in filling workforce gaps left by massive baby boom generation retirements over the next twenty years, as a new forward-looking report from the Center for American Progress describes.

Using data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study finds that “with large numbers of jobs coming open in every sector of the economy and at all skill levels from now to 2030, immigrants and their children will be critical to the continued dynamism of the American workforce and economy. They will play a vital role in reshaping the workforce, filling essential jobs, and sustaining economic growth.” Specifically, the report presents five major findings, which, collectively, have broad interwoven policy implications ranging from immigration, to healthcare, to education, and beyond.

  • Impact of baby boomer retirements will create a need for almost 57 million workforce replacements from 2010 to 2030 in all occupations and industries across the skills spectrum.
  • Most new workers will replace those exiting the workforce (two-thirds) while one-third of new workers will be in new growth positions.
  • Immigrants and their children are vital to replenishing the workforce as there would otherwise be a labor force deficit of millions of workers if only native-born (and not of immigrant parents) enter the workforce from 2010 to 2030.
  • Labor force growth will support economic growth through jobs related to the continued and increasing production of goods and services in an increasingly knowledge- and service-based economy.
  • Retirements will raise the need for new skilled workers because the baby boom generation is more highly educated on average than previous generations that have already retired. This particular finding raises policy implications for education at all levels and for all racial and ethnic groups and the need for investments in people, training, and education resources.

As the report reiterates, demographers show us that change – demographic and structural – of the U.S. population in the coming decades is an inevitable fact. . As the mostly White and African American senior population in the U.S. swells to its largest size in U.S. history, much more diverse younger generations of native- and foreign-born will support the aging baby boom generation in their retirement and will fill the economic gaps left by their departure from the labor force. The challenge will be to enact policies that afford everyone the opportunity to fully contribute to our economy and society. While comprehensive immigration reform, including high-skilled and other employment-based immigration reforms, is a critical component to meeting the coming gaps in the workforce, the impacts are much broader and permeate all of society. For example, demographic disparities in secondary and post-secondary education must be addressed to help close labor force gaps. And projected healthcare workforce shortages must be alleviated to help care for an aging society.

Our immigration system should play a role in helping meet the workforce, education, and healthcare challenges that America’s aging population presents. We, as a nation, continue transitioning to a globally interconnected information and knowledge-based economy. As such, the knowledge, skills, and abilities of new workers across all industries, occupations, and skill levels entering the labor force are needed in the coming decades to strengthen our twenty-first century economy, maintain America’s position as a place of innovation, help the country adjust to large waves of retirements and a growing elderly cohort, and to facilitate long-term economic growth. As the report concludes, immigrants and their children are vital to that process.