Between 2000 and 2030, America’s elderly population is expected to more than double from 35 million to 71.5 million. This demographic shift will put enormous pressure on the U.S. healthcare system, which is already strapped for workers. A new report by New American Economy (NAE), Who Will Care for Our Seniors?, examines the gap between healthcare job listings and unemployed healthcare workers.
Using data from the American Community Survey and Burning Glass Technologies, the report finds that, in 2013, there were 4.4 healthcare jobs advertised online for every unemployed healthcare worker. Experts assert that immigrants may be well-suited to filling these vacancies because they already make up a large share of workers in the healthcare industry, indicating a strong interest in the field.
There are far more vacant healthcare jobs than workers to fill them. In 2013, the demand for healthcare workers in the United States was so high that 4.4 healthcare jobs were advertised online for every one unemployed healthcare worker. This was in sharp contrast to the broader economy, where employers advertised just 1.3 jobs per worker.
In some occupations within the healthcare field, shortages appear to be particularly acute. In 2013, employers advertised 89.1 times more jobs for occupational therapists than there were unemployed occupational therapists to fill them. Similarly, job postings for nurse practitioners and midwives, as well as physicians and surgeons, outnumbered unemployed workers in those fields by 48.5 and 26.5 to one, respectively.
The gap between unemployed workers and the needs of the economy is dramatic in certain states and localities. In North Dakota, for example, nearly 54 healthcare jobs were posted online in 2013 for every one unemployed, local healthcare worker. In eight other states—including Colorado, New Hampshire, and New Mexico—the number of healthcare jobs available in 2013 outnumbered local, unemployed healthcare workers by more than 10 to one.
Despite the role that immigrants could play filling immediate gaps in America’s healthcare workforce, our current immigration system does not make it easy for employers to hire them, even temporarily, when no U.S.-born workers are available for the job. To ensure that seniors are able to get the level of care they both demand and deserve as they age, the report proposes that leaders in Washington:
Expand and/or create visa channels that would more easily allow healthcare workers to come to the United States.
Establish a visa system that would allow individual areas, such as states or cities, to sponsor immigrants with the specific skills they need to fill vacant jobs at the local level.
The United States immigration system must be reformed to better meet the needs of America’s rapidly aging population.
Read the full report here.