Shifting demographics may soon change the debate over immigration but likely won’t make securing workers any easier for growers and packers.
The Pew research cites the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, tougher border enforcement, a rise in deportations, growing dangers with illegal border crossings and improved economic conditions in Mexico for declining immigration.
The study also mentions falling birthrates in Mexico, which is reaching the end of a population bubble that sent tens of millions of Mexicans north searching for employment opportunities that were not available back home.
In 1960, the fertility rate in Mexico was 7.3 — meaning, on average, a Mexican woman had seven children. The rate dropped to 2.4 by 2009.
This helps explain why the number of people born in Mexico residing in the U.S. began shooting up in the early 1970s after remaining at less than 1 million since at least the mid-19th century, according to Pew figures.
The produce industry has become accustomed to an ever-larger pool of Mexican migrants to draw from, but those days appear numbered as the population of eligible workers ages and shrinks — or stays home to work in Mexico.
In the next decade or two, produce businesses will begin to feel the pinch.
It underscores the need for the U.S. to come to terms with economic realities in one of its strongest export sectors — agriculture — and ensure the industry has flexible access to the workers it needs.
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