Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, workers in certain industries in the United States have been critical to keeping the country's residents healthy and safe, and keeping the economy open. Many of these workers have endured difficult and dangerous conditions, working in close proximity to each other and to the public, and have been especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.
Many of these workers, often dubbed "essential workers," are foreign born. In fact, immigrant workers have been important during the pandemic, and will continue to play a key role in rebuilding the economy post-pandemic.
This report highlights the role foreign-born workers play in green jobs - those jobs that either benefit the environment directly or make their establishment's production more environmentally friendly.
Before the pandemic, 23 percent of green job workers were immigrants. This paper examines green job workers in four sectors: Cleaning, Installation, Business, and Science. It also examines the role of green job workers as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, the report looks to the future of the green economy, and how foreign-born workers will complement U.S. workers.
The report also tells the personal stories of immigrant workers who have made exceptional contributions to their field and to mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic (clockwise from the top left): Dr. Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian immigrant who conducted mRNA research that led to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines; Dr. Niall Lennon, an Irish immigrant, who has been instrumental in facilitating COVID-19 diagnostic testing through Clinical Research Sequencing Platform (CRSP); Mike Krieger, a Brazilian immigrant who co-founded Instagram; and Dr. Nasir Ahmed, an Indian immigrant who helped make digital media, online photo sharing, and video calls possible.
The Institute for Immigration Research examined industries that have been important during the pandemic and focused on four with the highest shares of foreign-born workers: Agriculture, Manufacturing, Wholesale and Retail Trade, and Transportation.
In these four industries, there are approximately 3,984,000 foreign-born workers who make up 20 percent of the workforce.
This report examines the immigrant workers in these four industries along a variety of socio-economic variables, compare them to similarly situated native U.S. workers, and discuss the important contributions these workers have made during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as their critical role in rebuilding the economy post-pandemic.
As part of our Immigrant Stories Project, the IIR has released a series Immigrant Stories featuring immigrant workers in essential industries.