NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Worker Retraining Programs Get No Applause

November 7, 1997

Personnel specialists have few good words for government job-training programs -- particularly those launched to win political support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) several years ago. Now President Clinton has proposed more of the same to win support for "fast-track" trade legislation.

Drawing on Labor Department figures, the Economic Policy Institute issued a study yesterday estimating that only about 10 percent of American workers who lost their jobs due to plants being moved to Mexico following NAFTA ratification in 1994 actually received retraining assistance.

  • More than 400,000 U.S. workers have lost their jobs due to NAFTA, the EPI estimates.
  • Only 144,691 of those were considered eligible for training assistance -- with only 40,000 actually receiving job retraining.
  • Another 20,000 have been granted an 18-month extension of unemployment benefits.
  • Clinton wants another $800 million package to expand these programs over five years.

The funds would be targeted at workers and communities adversely affected by job losses stemming from foreign competition or advances in technology. The plan would also set aside $250 million for suppliers and workers adversely affected by a nearby plant closing.

Critics can easily be found along the Texas-Mexico border. "El Paso is a living history of the complete failure of the NAFTA training program and the North American Development Bank Program," says one observer. The North American Development Bank assists communities affected by trade-related job losses.

Source: Timothy Burn, "Worker Training Called Old Hat," Washington Times, November 7, 1997.


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