'Our immigration system does not make it easy for employers and immigrants to connect'
Canada’s immigration system is not meeting the needs of small and medium-sized employers that are facing significant labour shortages, according to a report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB).
More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of the employers surveyed have had difficulty hiring workers over the past five years due to skills and labour shortages. And the biggest difficulty is the lack of qualified applicants (71 per cent) as small businesses are looking for workers with a college diploma or apprenticeship training (46 per cent) followed by those with high school diploma or job-specific training (31 per cent).
To address this, 60 per cent of employers have improved working conditions — including salary, vacation and paid time off — to attract more candidates, while 78 per cent did so to retain employees, found the survey of 7,916 employers.
"Our immigration system does not make it easy for smaller employers and immigrants to connect and work together," says Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB's senior vice-president of national affairs. "Employers who use the immigration system to fill a vacancy face a complex web of red tape and high costs, especially if they are hiring a temporary foreign worker. Once workers are in Canada and have become integrated in their communities and workplaces, it can be extremely difficult to retain them because there are limited pathways to permanent residency, especially for those with lower skill levels."
The labour shortages mean 41 per cent of small business owners are losing contracts or sales, and 34 per cent have had to cancel business plans, found CFIB.
To cope with having fewer workers available, just over 30 per cent have automated certain tasks to reduce the reliance on labour, and nearly 10 per cent have turned to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program to address vacancies.
In 2019, Nova Scotia broke the record of the most number of immigrants it welcomed to the province on record. A separate survey found that while immigrants to Canada are having luck finding jobs, many of these are not in their areas of expertise.
To improve the situation, CFIB urged the government to make the following changes to the immigration system:
- Create an "Introduction to Canada Visa" as a pathway to permanent residency for foreign workers in sectors or regions with high demand.
- Ensure that the skills of new immigrants being welcomed into Canada on a temporary or permanent basis more closely align with the skill levels needed by employers of all sizes, including in the skilled trades, and lower-skilled occupations.
- Conduct a full review of the TFWP process to reduce the complexity of applications, improve government customer service, and significantly reduce delays in processing applications.