Tech Automation and its Effect on US Immigrant Labor

With the development of technological tools such as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence has come a wave of conversation concerning the future of the US (and world) economy. The ability to automate processes previously done by humans with technology and machine automation, it’s a valid conversation. However, for the time being as well as in the foreseeable future, humans are the workplace’s most valuable resource.


According to this article from Vox, the age of automation means that humans in the workplace are actually more valuable. As processes become more mechanical, they create opportunities for new job markets and even increase our desire for humans in roles such as sales and customer service. This means that it will be more important than ever that there are enough people to fill these open roles, and many of them are coming from outside the US.


With this in mind, CapRelo performed a study specifically interested in the immigrant workforce in the US. With overall 28 million immigrants represented in the American workforce, they found which industries had the most significant immigrant populations.


Manual labor professions like construction and maintenance had the highest concentration of immigrant workers in 2018. These industries often have the lowest barriers of entry to immigrants who are new to the US, and also continue to expand in their need for workers as they cannot currently be automated. 


Behind these two, comes sales and related fields. This falls in line with observations about the future of the labor force in America amidst automation, as sales is a complex process that hinges upon human interaction and nuances communication. Sales is also a field that is constantly expanding and offers many jobs to people with little-to-no job experience in the US such as recent college graduates and immigrants.


The industries with the lowest representation don’t seem to be affected by automation at this time. Legal occupation, community and social services, and protective services currently have the lowest immigrant representation. This is likely due to the complex nature of these positions that is contingent upon years of education and is not easily transferable across international borders. 


It will be worth monitoring these employment trends over the next few years. As technology continues to advance and new applications are found, it will continue to shape the US and world labor forces in a way that we haven’t seen before.