About 6.8 million workers in the U.S. were employed by foreign companies in 2015, representing a jump of 22% when compared to 2007, according to a Pew Research analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The increase dwarfs overall U.S. private employment growth over that same time, which amounted to 3.6%. The increasing presence of foreign businesses in the American workforce speaks to a potential American business decline.
While many politicians love to spout the “buy American” mantra—the idea being that purchasing goods made in the U.S. will better the economy while buying foreign-made goods will weaken it—this patriotic battle cry may have lost some of its luster. That’s because, even if you do buy American, you may not be contributing to American companies at all, but instead to a potential American business decline.
Reasons Behind an American Business Decline
With foreign companies carving out a growing share of the American workforce, buying American does not ensure that a foreign company is not benefiting at the end of the day.
Consider that British-owned companies employed 1.1 million U.S. workers in 2015. Japan, France, and Germany all also employed hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers.
Overall, 5.5% of all U.S. private sector jobs were connected to foreign-owned companies in 2015, opposed to 4.7% in 2007. These positions run the gamut from primarily transportation to hospitality and food services for British-owned enterprises, while Japanese companies generally had U.S. workers in manufacturing.
China saw the greatest uptick in U.S. job employment, with more than 30 times the amount of workers employed by Chinese companies in 2015 compared to 2007. Meanwhile, compensation per worker has been on a downward trend for workers employed by Chinese companies. It currently ranks near the bottom for wages, at around $49,000 per employee in 2015.
With all these foreign-owned businesses increasing their share of U.S. workers, it lowers the pool of talent available to U.S. businesses. Furthermore, an American business decline may result as competition increases from outside sources and continue to gobble up a higher market share of their respective industries.
“Number of U.S. workers employed by foreign-owned companies is on the rise,” Pew Research Center, December 14, 2017.