Migrant Workers in the U.S. and China
Nevada State College
Many migrant workers in the U.S. tend to work in the agricultural industry as farmworkers, while migrant workers from China leave their rural farms to work in larger urbanized cities. Though roles seem to be reversed between the two groups, they have many similarities. The migrant workers from both the U.S. and China have significant impacts on their countries’ respective economies. In the process, these migrant workers endure many challenges such as poor pay, sub-standard living conditions, and work-related health risks. Regardless, migrant workers take on these challenges in order to better the lives of their families and to pursue their dreams and aspirations. Without their labor, many of the simple amenities that we enjoy would be more costly to obtain or not be available at all.
From the Chinese and Irish workers who helped build the first transcontinental railroad in the 1860’s to today’s farmworkers who picked the fruits and vegetables for the local buffet, migrant workers have always been weaved into the fabric of American society. In the United States, foreign-born workers make up an ample amount of the nation’s workforce and their contributions are vital to the overall U.S. economy. Other countries, such as China, also highly depend on migrant workers to contribute to the overall vitality of their nation’s economy. Over the past few decades, the urbanization of China’s coastal cities has been fast and furious. Though China’s migrant workers are mainly Chinese-born farmers from rural inland towns and villages, their challenges and ways of living are quite similar to those of the U.S. migrant worker. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 25 million foreign-born workers made up 15.8% of the U.S. labor force in 2010. This means that more than 1 in 7 workers in the United States is an immigrant (“Strength in Diversity,” 2012). Immigrant workers are in many fields such as construction, food service, and maintenance – migrant workers usually tend to refer to immigrant workers who leave their permanent homes to seek employment in agriculture, fishing, meat packaging, and dairy industries. Three to five million of these workers, along with their families, labor in fields and factories across the country to bring us fresh fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products. They often relocate several times during the year, pulling their children out of school, in order to follow the growing and harvesting seasons for different crops. Many of the migrant workers have their permanent homes in southern areas of the U.S. and they venture into northern areas to find work (“Farmworkers in the United States,” 2012). 77% of migrant farmworkers are of Mexican origin, with many others mainly coming from other Latin American countries. They continue a long tradition of people from Mexico harvesting crops in the southwestern U.S., including those who came here through the historic “Braceros” program, a program from the early 1940s created to bolster the nation’s work force as “soldiers of the fields and railroads” to help the U.S. win World War II (“Migrant Farmworkers in the United States,” n.d.). Not only do migrant workers impact the labor force, they also have a significant impact on the U.S. economy in different ways. Most people are likely unaware that they probably eat something almost every day that has been handled by a migrant farmworker. These hard working people help make it possible for our nation to spend a mere 9% of our per capita income on food—less than any other nation in the world (“Migrant Farmworkers in the United States,” n.d.). In 2007, the White House Council of Economic Advisers reported that immigration overall increases the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by around $37 billion every year because immigrants increase the size of...
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