This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

August 17, 2005

US Facing Surplus of Hispanic Workers?

The second largest contributor to Mexicoís Gross Domestic Product is the money sent back to families in the country from citizens who are working in other countries, particularly in the United States. That amount may soon surpass the revenue generated from Mexicoís leading industry, oil. Labor, much of it unskilled or semi-skilled, is the countryís most significant export.

A wide range of American employers use Hispanic workers as full-time, long-term employees, and as transient and temporary workers. Employers have found that these employees are most often dedicated and hard working. Their strong work ethic is accompanied by a welcome appreciation for having a job and respect for management. Interestingly, these values which built American industry, are lacking in many US citizens---both white and black. While longer-time workers complain about employer use of Hispanic immigrants, there are important differences in productivity and attitude.

Undocumented Mexican workers in the United States are a primary source of day labor for landscapers, construction and home remodeling companies, cleaning contractors, and similar employers whose need for less-skilled labor may vary from day to day. In many cities, there are established pick-up points where day workers congregate for employment opportunities. Employers looking for people drive up, hire workers on the spot, and transport them to the job site(s). At the end of the workday, they return them to the meeting point.

Many of these companies hiring undocumented workers pay them in cash, usually a reasonable wage. The amount is typically economical for the employer, but substantially more than the workers could make if they had remained back home in Mexico. They donít pay taxes, insurance, or other benefits. This practice is illegal, of course, but enforcement authorities simply do not have enough staff to adequately police this shadowy segment of the economy. With low overhead, businesses employing this type of labor have a competitive advantage.

When work is plentiful, foreign workers encourage their friends from Mexico to join them. So many have migrated to the US that in some areas, there is a slight surplus of labor. This problem will intensify, potentially driving down wages.

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