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Worker Shortage Looms in 2006

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue said that the country will face a server worker shortage in 2006, as 77 million baby boomers prepare to retire.

From the Associated Press

The United States faces a severe worker shortage in the near future, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday. Among the business group's goals in 2006 are better education for Americans and changes in immigration law to allow in more foreign workers.  

Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue, said at a news conference that the country is ill-prepared to deal with the impending retirement of 77 million baby boomers.

"We have yet to secure an adequate supply of working taxpayers to run a growing economy and support an explosion of retirees," he said. 

Donohue said the Chamber is working to pass new immigration law that includes a guest worker program. He said the Chamber opposed a bill passed by the House in December, which tightens border security and requires employers to verify the legal status of workers but does not address the guest worker issue.

He dismissed as a "crummy argument" criticisms that the business community wants a guest worker program to secure access to cheap labor. "What American companies want is labor, and we are going to be significantly without it," Donohue said.

The Senate is expected to take up the immigration issue next month, and Donohue said his group will be "working to obtain a bill that provides the workers and is in keeping without our legacy as a welcoming nation."

Donohue said the Chamber has traditionally stayed out of school reform at the state and local level, but has changed its thinking in a global environment where China graduates eight times, and India five times, as many engineers as the United States.

He said the Chamber plans to measure and rank the performance of state school systems, with the aim of helping businesses decide where to locate. The Chamber is also working with other business organizations to double the number of math, science and engineering graduates by 2015.