Saving Jobs Through Immigration

Talented individuals are everywhere, and organizations are hungry to hire them. While organizations may have previously seen location as being a major stumbling block for applicants seeking positions in a country besides their own, hiring diverse individuals from various locations is now commonplace and practically a necessity for recruiting the top talent in any given field. While the opportunity to hire highly skilled workers from all over the world is a major advantage for organizations and helps drive innovation, some people are startled by the idea of positions in their home country being filled by immigrant workers.

Some citizens in hosting countries ask, “are immigrant workers taking our jobs?” Britta Glennon, assistant management professor at the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania, has been researching this very question. Glennon’s focus has been on the impact of highly skilled, international, immigrant workers coming to the United States; however, questions surrounding such immigration are not unique to the U.S. She points to Brexit, the withdrawal of the U.K. from the European Union, as a manifestation outside of the U.S. of xenophobia regarding the possibility of immigrants negatively impacting job opportunities for citizens of the host country. So, what has Glennon found?

Reality Check

The question of whether or not highly skilled immigrant workers are taking jobs from citizens of the host country is not simply a yes or no question. Looking too narrowly at the issue, individuals may believe that there are only two options for hiring managers: hire a domestic citizen or hire an immigrant worker. However, Glennon points out that organizations have a third option: hire a foreign worker to work outside of the home country.

For example, if a U.S. organization wanted to hire a foreign worker from India, but could not get the worker a visa to work in the U.S., the organization could hire the Indian worker to work for them out of Canada, where immigration policies are more lenient. Rather than simply filling a U.S. position, this option removes that job from the U.S. economy. According to Glennon, preventing organizations from bringing highly skilled workers to the U.S. forces the organizations to take the jobs to the workers instead. This loses the job for the U.S. as a whole, rather than losing the job to a different worker while keeping it in the country.

Long-Run Repercussions

What impact will this have on the job market 10, 15, 20 years from now? International organizations wanting to hire talent from other regions of the world are going to face the problem described above time and time again. If immigration laws consistently prevent them from hiring the talent they desire, the organizations will likely move their primary operations to a country where that is not the case. Now, citizens in the home country have gone from losing one position to a foreign worker, to losing an entire department, or even company, and their associated positions to another country. As for the country as a whole, the departure of that company likely entails lost tax dollars, lost economic activity with local firms, and lost claims to any innovations that come from the organization once it moves abroad. As Glennon says, “skilled workers are more likely to create patents, and now they are being pushed to Canada instead and we are losing that patent [as well].”


In reality, immigrants create and protect jobs for citizens of the host country. Glennon says, “there is lots of research showing that immigrants create jobs.” Companies are inevitably going to hire the best talent. Sometimes that will be a citizen of the home country, other times it won’t. Either way, the organization will find a way to work with the individuals who can drive their teams to the front of their industry. By enabling companies to bring in the most talented individuals, jobs are created as those organizations innovate, expand, and in turn must hire additional employees. Rather than stealing jobs, immigrants in fact save them.

To learn more from Britta Glennon on the myths surrounding immigration, view her Global Perspectives Summit 2020 presentation here.

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