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Immigrants in New York State’s Workforce

The American Immigration Council published a new report, Economic Benefits of the Empire State Licensing: Immigrants in New York State’s Workforce, in May 2022 highlighting the critical role that immigrants and refugees play in New York’s workforce and the need to reduce barriers to professional and occupational licenses. New York law currently prohibits many immigrants from gaining professional and occupational licensure. This report highlights the benefits of passing the Empire State Licensing Act, a bill that would provide all New Yorkers (regardless of immigration status) with access to various professional and occupational licenses. The report also outlines the growing demand for workers in five areas: nursing, oral health, emergency services, social work and behavioral health, and K-12 education.

As New York’s population ages, and as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it will need more skilled licensed professionals. Removing barriers to professional and occupational licensing opportunities is crucial to meet the growing workforce needs.

Key findings from the report include:

  • In New York immigrants and refugees play a critical role in the workforce. In 2019, immigrants and refugees made up 22 percent of the state’s population, but 27.2 percent of the workforce.
  • There is a growing demand for workers in New York – especially for bilingual workers in healthcare, social work, and education. 
  • Despite licensure barriers, immigrants and refugees are helping to meet the demand for more work. In 2019, 42.7 percent of nursing assistants, 25.7 percent of healthcare social workers, and 20.3 percent of teaching assistants in New York were immigrants and refugees.

You can find the report here.

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