A “demographic drought” brought about by an aging population, increasing retirements, declining fertility rates and lower immigration rates is threatening Minnesota’s workforce in general and in healthcare in particular, according to a new report by Lightcast. The report, which was co-sponsored by Presbyterian Homes and Services, the Minnesota Business Partnership and SullivanCotter, suggests immigration reform as a possible solution.

By 2030, Minnesota will need 25,900 more personal care and home health aides and 4,800 more registered nurses, according to the report. The report’s authors, labor economists Rachel Sederberg, PhD, and Elizabeth Crofoot, said that the state’s workforce is “vanishing.”

“That’s a huge concern for us in long-term care because we’re solely dependent on people,” Care Providers of Minnesota Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Nicole Mattson told the McKnight’s Business Daily. “Where other industries or professions might be able to innovate or lean into technology, we cannot.”

Care Providers of Minnesota is the state affiliate of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

“The talent pool we have to pull from is diminishing. This report points to declining fertility rates, increased number of retirements, youth in particular that have left the workforce altogether,” Mattson said. “I think the retention piece has maybe been exacerbated for us by COVID and by the aftereffects of the pandemic and just kind of coping with what is and always has been a really rewarding but challenging profession. To care for other individuals always has the potential for burnout because it is such a high-reward, challenging role.”

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is struggling more than almost all other states to attract and retain workers, according to the economists. The state ranked 46th in Lightcast’s  2022 Talent Attraction Scorecard.

But immigration reform might be one means of easing the workforce shortage, particularly in healthcare, according to the report.

The healthcare industry in Minnesota relies heavily on foreign-born labor, according to the report:

  • The state ranks sixth in the nation for its share of immigrants in the healthcare workforce. 
  • More than 13% of all healthcare workers in the state are immigrants.
  • One out of every three nursing assistants and one out of every four personal care aides is an immigrant. 

“A good percentage of our workforce is immigrants. We would not be able to provide healthcare or long-term care without immigrants,” Mattson said. “So I think that they play a critical role in ensuring that we’re able to meet seniors and other people in need, and we’re providing care in these communities.” 

Immigration rates in 2022 were below their 2015 peak, the authors said. Returning to 2015 levels of immigration, according to the data, could draw about 20,000 additional working-age individuals through 2030.

“I think we feel those effects, those changes to immigration before other other professions do,” Mattson said.

Read additional immigration-related news here.