As baby boomers, born between the end of World War II and 1964, reach retirement age, the primary driver of the country’s workforce for the past 50 years will be losing its pride of place. The U.S. workforce is forecast to grow by 10 million over the next 20 years, rising to 183.2 million by 2035. And that growth will be fueled by immigration.
According to a new report from Pew Research, the number of working-age adults (ages 25 through 64) born in the United States to parents who themselves were born in the United States is projected to drop by 8.2 million, from 128.3 million 2015 to 120.1 million in 2035.
That decline will be partially offset by the number of U.S.-born working-age adults born to immigrant parents. Pew forecasts that total to rise from 11.1 million in 2015 to 24.6 million in 2035.
Pew notes, however, that growth of 10 million over two decades will be lower than growth in any single decade since the 1960s. How will the nation solve that growth problem? According to Pew, with new immigration:
But perhaps the most important component of the growth in the working-age population over the next two decades will be the arrival of future immigrants. The number of working-age immigrants is projected to increase from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million by 2035, with new immigrant arrivals accounting for all of that gain. … Without these new arrivals, the number of immigrants of working age would decline by 17.6 million by 2035, as would the total projected U.S. working-age population, which would fall to 165.6 million.
We can see the further implications of such a drastic decline in the workforce by looking at what’s happened in Japan since the early 1990s. Christopher Matthews at Axios sums it up well:
The size of [Japan’s] workforce peaked in 1998, and it has suffered through six different recessions since, compared to the United States’ two. Not only is it harder to produce more wealth with fewer people, but the incentive for corporations to invest is reduced when they know they’ll have fewer potential customers tomorrow than they have today.
Future immigrants and their U.S.-born children will account for 88% of U.S. population growth between 2015 and 2035, according to Pew Research. Perhaps we should be thinking of ways to welcome them.