NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Attracting Workers To Sustain Economic Growth

May 20, 1999

Economists warn that lack of sufficient numbers of workers could impede the economy's growth in the near future. Bob McTeer, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has come up with two suggestions to help solve that looming problem.

To attract more people into the work force, he would first eliminate Social Security rules that penalize seniors for working.

  • At present, workers age 62 to 64 lose 50 cents of Social Security benefits for each dollar they earn above $9,600 a year.
  • Those age 65 to 69 lose 33 cents for each dollar earned above $15,500.
  • Although there are provisions for increasing benefits once workers reach 70 or retire, they are often not high enough to make up for what's been lost and few seniors are aware of these provisions.

In addition to making work more financially attractive to seniors, McTeer would boost the work force by revising current immigration laws -- enabling more foreigners with valuable skills and training to work here.

  • Of the 110,000 permanent-resident visas available each year to professionals, scientists and other skilled workers, 70,000 go unused due to cumbersome labor- certification rules necessitating extensive paperwork -- a process which should be streamlined.
  • Meanwhile, the quota for temporary workers under H1-B visas -- set at 115,000 for this year and next -- is oversubscribed well before the end of the year, suggesting that the limit should be raised to at least 200,000 and the increase made permanent.

Source: Bob McTeer, "How to Keep the Economy Growing," Wall Street Journal, May 20, 1999.


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