Supporting Immigrants in Low-Wage Jobs: Strategies for Funders
Immigrants and refugees are over-represented among essential workers in the United States. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), while those born outside of the U.S. make up 17 percent of U.S. workers, they are 38 percent of home health aides; 41 percent of janitors; 34 percent of bus, metro, and taxi drivers; and 18 percent of essential retail workers. Additionally, they represent significant shares of workers cleaning hospital rooms, staffing stores, and producing food. MPI also notes that an additional six million immigrants work in industries hardest hit by the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has only heightened the structural barriers and challenges already facing immigrants and refugees who are seeking to build a life in the U.S. These newcomers need jobs that offer growth potential and access to higher wages, and that are more resilient to withstanding changes in our workforce and economy. However, the current workforce, educational, and support systems include few paths or incentives to help newcomers achieve these goals and forge meaningful careers. What is needed are more and different types of capital to generate workforce development, training, learning, and support services that better meet the needs of immigrant and refugee workers.
Over the past 12 months, the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University, with the support of the World Education Services Mariam Assefa Fund, explored ways in which catalytic financing tools could increase and adapt the capital available to advance the training and development of entry-level essential workers. In this report, they identify promising financing options with potential for scale and key elements of program design that funders and investors can use when seeking to support workforce initiatives with maximum impact.