There is no evidence of a national labour shortage at present or into the foreseeable future, and furthermore, there are large groups of underutilized populations who could join the workforce or be more fully employed.
The results of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Knowledge Synthesis Grant, of which the University of Lethbridge’s Dr. Susan McDaniel was the principal investigator, reveal that Canada is not confronting a broad labour shortage, nor is a shortage anticipated in the near future, as some have been predicting.
“The research literature clearly finds that there is no national labour shortage,” says McDaniel, Canada Research Chair in Global Population and Life Course as well as the Prentice Research Chair in Global Population and Economy. “There are skills shortages in some industries and regions, but the literature points to a mismatch of skills rather than a shortage. Reviewed research confirms that hiring difficulties that some employers have are due to normal cycles of the labour market for their specific industry and not a national skilled labour shortage.”
McDaniel’s team consisted of researchers with collective expertise in demographic change, immigration and skills development from the University of Lethbridge, University of Alberta and University of Calgary. The team distilled 219 peer-reviewed articles and reports for inclusion in this study, dating from 2000 to 2013. The articles focused on: gaps in labour/skills demand and supply, aging workforce, employment patterns of aging Canadians, the role of immigration and shifting immigration policies and the role of shifting skills development.
Their findings also identified large groups of populations, such as youth, Aboriginals, disabled persons and unemployed older workers, who are being underutilized in the workforce. As well, highly skilled immigrants are being severely underutilized in the workforce in their fields of expertise due to unrecognized experience and credentials.
“Canada’s immigration irony is that we attract highly-skilled workers but then fail to utilize, or underutilize, the important skills they bring,” says McDaniel. “As a result, immigrants are not actually meeting the needs of the Canadian labour market.”
The study is of key importance to Canadian policy makers as it creates a knowledge base from which labour market/skills development policies and immigration policy planning can draw.
Following are the seven key findings from the SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis project.
1. There is no evidence of a national labour shortage at present or into the foreseeable future. The labour force is predicted instead to grow until 2031 but at a slower rate of growth.
2. First edge of the baby boom (people now age 65-67) are working longer, so there is less shrinkage in the labour force than originally predicted
3. Last edge of the baby boom (people born 1966) are only 47 years old in 2013, so have about 20 more productive years before leaving the workforce
4. There are pockets of skill shortages and mismatches in specific industry sectors and in specific geographic areas
5. There are large groups of underutilized populations who could join the workforce or be more fully employed, particularly youth, Aboriginals, disabled persons and unemployed older workers
6. Highly-skilled immigrants are being severely underutilized in the workforce in their fields of expertise due to unrecognized experience and credentials
7. Temporary foreign workers support the Canadian economy in lower paying jobs, particularly in the hospitality, food and beverage industries, as well as in higher paying jobs. However they do not receive the same levels of employment security, equity and supports Canadian employees in the same roles do.