42%–that number represents the percentage that Louisville’s foreign-born population rose between 2009-2014, more than any other city of its size. In fact, without refugees and immigrants, Louisville’s population would be decreasing. Many immigrants are attracted to Louisville because of its excellent job market, particularly in manufacturing and logistics; others come because of family ties or for a safer environment than the bigger cities. Whatever their reason for coming, refugees and immigrants make up a critical population in Louisville Metro and are welcomed as such by local government, communities, and business small and large. Businesses have the most to gain from this population; while our native-born population has 25.5% of adults in the optimal working age range (25-44 years old), the foreign-born population boasts a hefty 45.9% of adults in this same range, filling gaps in our workforce population.
Other benefits to hiring refugees and immigrants include their work ethic, skills and experience, and retention rates. With the opioid crisis reaching critical mass in Kentucky, immigrants and refugees can fill open positions caused by addiction or justice-related issues; entry is denied to any foreign-born individual that suffers from addiction. Also, the opioid crisis calls for an increased response in the medical sector; more than one-fifth of refugees in Louisville have medical backgrounds, whether they were doctors, nurses, biomedical engineers, midwives, or dentists. They bring experience, education, and a global perspective that can contribute to the growth of the medical sector to provide services to a growing population. Immigrants are trying to establish themselves here in the United States. Once they find employment, immigrants are more likely to stay at a company, showing a turnover rate of around 4%, as opposed to the national turnover rate in business around 11% (higher for lower-skilled occupations). While immigrants and refugees bring diversity into the workforce, they also bring new customer bases to businesses and new critical perspectives to daily operations.
Whether a business is big, medium, or small, all can benefit from immigrant and refugee contributions, and by helping themselves, they are also supporting the community, increasing homeownership rates, and tax contributions. We all benefit by integrating refugees and immigrants into the workforce!
Kristina Mielke, a member of the JFCS Career Workforce Development team. Kristina has been passionately working with refugees and immigrants for more than a decade. She has been working at JFCS since 2014 as a Career Specialist for Career Academy and loves helping newcomers translate their past experiences and passions into a rewarding career in their new country. She will be graduating in May 2019 with a Master’s of Science in Social Work from the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work.
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