Good labour market information (LMI) can help employers, governments and jobseekers make better decisions. But improvements to Canada’s LMI system in recent years don’t go far enough, largely because no government body, including the intergovernmental Forum of Labour Market Ministers, has taken charge of this issue.
That’s according to Don Drummond, who chaired the 2009 federal-provincial-territorial Advisory Panel on Labour Market Information, in an IRPP Insight from the Institute for Research on Public Policy. He argued that if Canada is to develop a comprehensive, pan-Canadian LMI system, Ottawa must take the lead. This could be done by bolstering the mandate of Statistics Canada or creating a separate LMI agency.
Much of the confusion that has arisen in the last several years over the state of the labour market reflects longstanding inadequacies in labour market data, he said.
“Serious assertions are being made about labour shortages, employers not investing enough in training and people unable to find work that fits their skill set,” said Drummond. “In each case, there is likely some validity to the claims. But we simply don’t know enough to provide a critical assessment.”
Since the panel reported in 2009, there have been some improvements in LMI, such as the introduction of the Job Vacancy Survey by Statistics Canada. But there is still a lack detailed and timely data on local and occupational labour market trends, the employment outcomes of graduates, and an overall picture of job losses and new employment prospects, he said.
And what data exists is not well communicated to the general public.
“Confusion over the actual labour market conditions continues in good part because no entity has stepped forward to take charge of LMI,” said Drummond. “With relatively modest effort, Canada could have one of the best LMI systems in the world and, as a result, a better-functioning labour market. This would lower unemployment and raise people’s incomes and well-being.”
Drummond called on the federal government to take the lead work, working with the provinces and territories, to:
•enhance Statistics Canada’s mandate to collect more and better data (or establish a separate LMI agency)
•improve the Job Vacancy Survey so it provides local information, especially on occupations
•link education, tax and administrative data so as to better monitor labour market outcomes of graduates
•continue to develop a single information portal (such as the Job Bank) that brings together data on labour market conditions across the country
•strengthen the capacity of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers by instituting regular meetings, more consultations and a permanent secretariat.
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