Why Latinos are the labor force of the future

By Susana Baumann (Voxxi.com)

On February 16, 2012 MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund) will be addressing its Latino State of the Union 2012 in Washington D.C.  Discussion will be centered on the role Latinos play in the political life of this country, an urgent topic for national debate. United States Secretary of Labor Hilda S. Solis will be the event’s keynote speaker.

Despite new reports on the increasing representation Latinos hold –their buying power, insertion in the labor force, and their role as the backbone of Social Security– the part Hispanics play in the United States’ political arena is still minimal.

According to a new study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics will account for 75 percent of the nation’s labor force growth in the next decade. A population that is growing rapidly because of an increasing birth rate and fed by constant immigration–although lessened in the last two years– Hispanics in the United States are the labor force of the future.

The aging non-Hispanic population entering Social Security massively –due to the baby-boomers’ generation– will need the younger Latino labor force to carry for millions of Americans’ pensions. In addition, the non-Hispanic birthrate is slowing down at an alarming rate. White women are giving birth at a later age and to fewer children.

“A second important factor is that Hispanics have a higher labor force participation rate than other groups. The nation’s labor force participation rate—that is, the share of the population ages 16 and older either employed or looking for work—was 64.7 percent in 2010. Among Hispanics, the rate was 67.5 percent. There are two main explanations for this gap: Hispanics are a younger population than other groups, and include a higher share of immigrants,” concludesRakesh Kochhar.

These figures were extracted from the 2010-2020 BLS projections for the U.S. labor force.  The report indicates that growth will slow overall, while the rest of the world’ labor force —especially the Asian markets—is growing at a frantic rate.

“Hispanics are expected to add 7.7 million workers to the labor force while the number of non-Hispanic whites in the labor force is projected to decrease by 1.6 million.”

The labor force movement should acknowledged this increased role of Latinos as an opportunity for their political participation in the next decades, and act accordingly. “Latinos need the freedom to form unions and bargain—which means they need the Employee Free Choice Act,” says Gabriela Lemus, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement(LCLAA), a national organization for Latino working families and an AFL-CIO constituency group.

On the other hand, the Selig Center for Economic Growth reports that Hispanics have gained buying power —as disposable income, or money that is available for spending after taxes—over the past decade at a staggering rate compared to other minorities. Minority markets combined will continue to grow faster than the majority markets. It is projected that African Americans, Asians and Native Americans will increase from $1.6 trillion in 2010 to $2.1 trillion in 2015, which represents 15 percent of the nation’s total buying power. Hispanics alone will rise from $1 trillion in 2010 to $1.5 trillion in 2015, accounting for nearly 11 percent.

“The Hispanic market alone, at $1 trillion, is larger than the entire economies of all but 14 countries in the world–smaller than the GDP of Canada but larger than the GDP of Indonesia,”  Jeffrey M. Humphreys, director of the center, notes.

These projections are a valuable planning tool for businesses looking for opportunities to expand and promote their products, design their media and advertising campaigns, and tap into a market that is still being largely ignored in mainstream markets and media.

Although the number of employed Hispanics has dropped from its peak in 2008 –nearly 13 percent of new jobs created in the previous years–Latino buying power is expected to continue growing as the relatively young population is increasing educational opportunities and moving up the social ladder.

“The ten states with the largest Hispanic markets, in order, are California ($265 billion), Texas ($176 billion), Florida ($107 billion), New York ($81 billion), Illinois ($44 billion), New Jersey ($39 billion), Arizona ($34 billion), Colorado ($22 billion), New Mexico ($20 billion), and Georgia ($17 billion),” says the report, which brings us to the issue of political representation.

Some of these states are fighting over or have completed their Congressional redistricting, and the 2012 elections will play a significant role in how Latinos are represented in Congress.Redistricting only occurs every 10 years and is instrumental in receiving federal funding and apportionment.

Latinos are the nation’s second largest and fastest growing population group and electorate; however, we are still behind in representation. Encouraging those who are not citizens yet to acquire their citizenship and those who are to participate in the electoral process is our very first priority if we ever want to achieve that representation and make our voices count.

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Categories: NGLC Conference

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