Posted on June 10th, 2011 by Alejandra Okie 15 Comments
Farmworkers play a vital role in cultivating the food we eat every day. Even though 85 percent of our fruits and vegetables are harvested by hand, farmworkers remain largely invisible.
Agricultural labor includes planting, cultivating, harvesting and preparing crops for market or storage.
Migrant/seasonal: Migrantfarmworkers travel from place to place to work in agriculture and move into temporary housing while working; seasonal farmworkers work primarily in agriculture, but live in one community year-round.
Employment: Farmworkers are usually employed by farm owners or by “crew leaders,” who serve as intermediaries between growers and workers. The H2A program allows foreign “guestworkers” to perform seasonalfarmwork under a temporary work visa for agricultural workers in the United States.
Poverty: Nationally, farmworkers’ average annual income is $11,000; for a family it is approximately $16,000. Farmworkers on the East Coast earn about 35 percent less than the national average.
Hard work, low pay: At 40¢ per bucket (5/8 bushel), a farmworker must pick and haul two tons of sweet potatoes to earn$50.
Few wage protections: Most farmworkers are exempt from minimum wage laws, and all are exempt from overtime provisions, despite long work days during peak harvest.
Child labor: As an industry, agriculture is exempt from most child labor laws. Children are allowed to work as paid employees at agricultural operations beginning at age 10. While children make up only a tiny fraction of theagricultural work force, they account for 20 percent of all deaths on the job in agriculture.
Few benefits: Despite pervasive poverty, less than 1 percent of farmworkers collect general assistance welfare nationwide. Only 10 percent of farmworkers report having health insurance through an employer health plan. Fewer than 4 out of 10 workers interviewed said that they would receive unemployment benefitsif out of work.
Hunger: Nearly 5 out of 10 North Carolina farmworkers cannot afford enough food for themselves and their families.
Immigrant Workers in the U.S. Labor Force
Debates about illegal immigration, border security, skill levels of workers, unemployment, job growth and competition, and entrepreneurship all rely, to some extent, on perceptions of immigrants’ role in the U.S. labormarket. These views are often shaped as much by politics and emotion as by facts.
To better frame these debates, this short analysis provides data on immigrants in the labor force at the current time of slowed immigration, high unemployment, and low job growth and highlights eight industries where immigrants are especially vital.
How large a share of the labor force are they and how does thatvary by particular industry? How do immigrants compare to native-born workers in their educational attainment and occupational profiles?
The answers matter because our economy is dependent on immigrant labor now and for the future. The U.S. population is aging rapidly as the baby boom cohort enters old age and retirement. As a result, the labor force will increasingly depend upon immigrants andtheir children to replace current workers and fill new jobs. This analysis puts a spotlight on immigrant workers to examine their basic trends in the labor force and how these workers fit into specific industries and occupations of interest.
This data analysis primarily uses the 2010 Current Population Survey (CPS) to examine workers by nativity, but also uses Census data and the American CommunitySurvey (ACS) in Figure 1. Both the CPS and ACS questionnaires identify immigrants by their birthplace, but not by their legal status. The terms foreign-born and immigrant are used interchangeably in this analysis to refer to anyone born outside the United States who was not a citizen at birth. This population includes naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, temporary migrants (including...
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