“The longstanding assumption that the region has an endless supply of less-educated workers headed for the US is becoming less and less accurate when it comes to Mexico; and in the years ahead, it is also likely to become less accurate first for El Salvador and then Guatemala,” says the executive summary of the report released Monday by the Migration Policy Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The second study agrees with the first and connects the trend directly to issues at the heart of immigration reform.
“This [trend] means that immigration policy will cease to be a solution to the US farm labor problem in the long run and probably sooner. In fact, we already may be witnessing the start of a new era in which farmers will have to adapt to labor scarcity by switching to less labor-intensive crops, technologies, and labor management practices,” according to the University of California study released in March.
Together, the two studies reinforce statistically what experts have been cataloging anecdotally since the 1980s, pointing to several reasons for the historic drop in cheap Mexican farm labor.
• As incomes in Mexico have risen, workers have shifted out of farm work into other sectors. Mexico’s farm workforce fell by nearly 2 million – 25 percent – from 1995 to 2010, and its per capita income now exceeds $15,000 per year. “Moving away from farm work as your income rises, reflects a pattern seen in many other countries,” says Edward Taylor, one of the authors of the University of California report.