Testifying before a Senate panel Wednesday, Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan said the United States faces a critical, long-running economic challenge to ensure that its workforce is equipped with skills to compete effectively in an environment of rapid technological progress and global competition.
"Technological advance is continually altering the shape, nature, and complexity of our economic processes," Greenspan told the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in prepared testimony. "But technology and, more recently, competition from abroad have grown to a point at which demand for the least-skilled workers in the United States and other developed countries is diminishing, placing downward pressure on their wages. These workers will need to acquire the skills required to compete effectively for the new jobs that our economy will create."
Over the past two decades, Greenspan said, the supply of highly skilled workers has failed to keep up with a persistent rise in the demand for such skills. At the same time, demand for lesser-skilled workers has declined, he said.
"The failure of our society to enhance the skills of a significant segment of our workforce has left a disproportionate share with lesser skills," he said. "The effect, of course, is to widen the wage gap between the skilled and the lesser skilled."