Report: Immigrants make up 26% of U.S. drug production and distribution workforce

With the U.S. having the second highest proportion of immigrants to total population in the G8, people from overseas inevitably play an important role in many industries. But a study has found that immigrants are particularly vital to pharmaceutical production and distribution, with people born outside the U.S. accounting for more than one-quarter of the total workforce.

Shaun Michel and Dr. James Witte of the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University calculated the figure in a paper analyzing the role of immigrants in the pharmaceutical industry. Across the industry as a whole, immigrants--who account for 14% of the U.S. population--make up 17% of the workforce. The proportion of immigrants in pharmaceutical production and distribution is higher still, with 26% of all positions occupied by people from outside the U.S.

Certain sectors of drug production are particularly reliant on immigrants. One-third of all packaging and filling machine operators are immigrants, as are 28% of production workers. Immigrants also make up 28% of the inspector and tester workforce and are even more important to R&D. Michel and Witte calculate that 43% of medical scientists are immigrants. Other tasks employ a higher percentage of people born in the U.S., with just 23% of front-line supervisor jobs being held by immigrants.

The list of birthplaces of people working in the pharmaceutical sector is dominated by emerging markets, with India and China accounting for one-quarter of all immigrants employed by the industry. South and Central America and Eastern Europe are also well represented.

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