There is no general labour shortage in Canada that would warrant a reliance on foreign workers. Instead, the country needs to scale back the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and build a skilled workforce from within, according to a report published by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.
"The number of admissions under the TFWP has nearly tripled in 25 years, from 65,000 to 182,000 in 2010," said author Kevin McQuillan, a professor at the university.
"The primary justification for the expansion of the program has been the widespread assumption that Canada is suffering from a growing shortage of labour. Yet, it is hard to find any evidence to support this belief."
While there are worker shortages in specific industries and specific regions, Canada can respond to these challenges by promoting success for younger workers here at home, said the report All the Workers We Need: Debunking Canada’s Labour-Shortage Fallacy.
Specifically, industry and government need to encourage more young people to pursue an education and careers in fields where jobs are available. McQuillan highlighted two potential methods for altering enrollment patterns in post-secondary institutions: strategic funding by government into schools or programs that match labour market needs, and variable pricing tuition, which would mean charging more for programs in fields where there is already an excess of labour.
Government and employers also need to work together to reduce barriers to the mobility of labour across provinces, including the perceived costs of migration. Some form of incentive, such as a tax break, could be employed to encourage displacement, said the report, and government and employers should also work closely together on recruitment initiatives in areas of high unemployment.
In addition to scaling back the TFWP, McQuillan advocated a series of immigration policies that can help Canada build a stronger workforce:
•Hold the immigration rate close to the current rate of roughly 0.7 per cent of the population.
•Consider linking admissions to the business cycle: trimming targets in recessions and increasing them during buoyant economic times.
•Develop consistent national standards for education and language ability for all admitted in the economic class.
The report can be found at www.policyschool.ucalgary.ca/publications.
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