Friday, 8 July 2011

Oy Vey, Again With The Skills Shortage.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced the launch of a website that will "help Canadians identify which sectors of the economy are currently hiring and where job growth is likely to occur in future years."

The Globe and Mail report notes that "Even during the height of the recession, Ms. Finley said, there were many industries that suffered from a labour shortage because they could not find workers with the required skill sets."

Before we allow ourselves to readily accept the claim that Canada is facing a "skills crisis" - a crisis that both business and their tools in Ottawa have vested interests in promoting regardless of how true it is - we should give consideration to some relevant information.

Linked to the Globe article is a report informing us that Canada pumps out the jobs in June. It tells us jobs in transportation and warehousing were up while jobs in the professional, scientific and technical services sectors were lost. And oh yeah, Canada faces a "skills crisis" by the way.

Furthermore from the Globe we read:

...even though self-employment was way down, there’s good reason to be skeptical that the quality of jobs being created is improving. Not only were most of the gains in services rather than goods-producing sectors of the economy, but part-time job gains outpaced full-time gains after the latter had posted a few solid months in a row. Plus, the annual pace of wage growth slipped to 2 per cent, well below the current rate of inflation and the slowest year-over-year pace since December. {...}

Moreover, total hours worked rose at the slowest annual clip since the first quarter of 2010 -- 1.2 per cent -- which suggests many people who are returning to the work force may be doing so only because they’ve swallowed hard and taken something that doesn’t really replicate the job they lost during the recession.{...}

Also, while the private sector and the public sector both saw job growth in June, governments everywhere are cutting back and it seems extremely unlikely that the public hiring seen during the month -- largely linked to temporary work on the 2011 Census -- will be repeated.

Related to that last point the government is facing budgetary constraints and looking to trim the public sector workforce as a means to address it. The RCMP slashed recruit training by 84% to under 300 recruits this year, down from 1,800 in 2009.

Since Canada is facing a "skills crisis" it should leave one scratching their head to learn that Phds are having a difficult time finding work.

...Canada’s employment rate for PhDs lags behind many European countries, the United States and Australia. Comparable data was not available for many countries including emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.{...}

In Canada, the unemployment rate for those with PhDs in the natural sciences, it was about 3 per cent; for engineering it was closer to 4 per cent. In the U.S., it was slightly higher than 1 per cent in natural sciences and 1 per cent in engineering.

Is there really a "skills crisis" or is the labour market flooded with so much labour that employers have become unrealistically demanding of qualifications and as a consequence have become extra picky?

Perhaps the truth is that there isn't a "skills crisis" at all but rather the private sector is failing to produce jobs that meet the skills that Canadians posses. Canada has the best educated labour force out of all the G8 nations with the highest percentage of its labour market participants with some form of post-secondary training.

Yet out of all the industrialized nations in the world Canada is one of the likeliest to see its citizens live abroad. Nearly 2.9 million Canadians, almost 10% of the total population, live abroad primarily in the United States making Canada second only to the U.K. out of all industrialized nations in the size of its overseas diaspora. And these are mostly born and bred Canadians not the Canadian-of-convenience variety like the roughly 45,000 "Canadians" living in Lebanon or the some 300,000 "Canadians" living in Hong Kong. There are several reasons why someone would chose to live abroad but I am certain chief among them is employment.

With a highly educated workforce coupled with a high propensity to live and work abroad tells us something about the state of the Canadian labour market. Simply put, the jobs are not there at least not ones that are well paying, stable, and with benefits. True, there may be shortages in health care or the trades but these are not job producing professions in and of themselves and in the case of the trades are oftentimes short-term and contractual. Indeed, the Canadian job is increasingly being described as precarious. This is work that is low paying and insecure.

I believe the "skills crisis" in Canada is being over exaggerated. Hell, even U.S. businesses complain of a skills shortage but the idea is laughable when given further consideration. But the "skills crisis" is thrown around in both countries to promote immigration as a solution while in practice is to be used with the underhanded purpose of attacking the incomes of working Canadians and Americans. If Canada was serious about addressing the "skills crisis" with immigration then why are only 17% of immigrants admitted to Canada come as skilled immigrants.

Even if there is a "skills crisis" is there not enough idle labour in Canada that can be trained to address it? Do we really need 280,000 immigrants (and growing) a year? Did we ever? Why are billions being wasted to import a deluge of foreign born nationals when that money could be redirected into training the Canadian labour force?

And is the continued mass importation of people from China, India, and the Philippines, indeed from most of Asia, going to alleviate it? There is a vast pool of labour of comparable skill and competency to be found in the depressed labour markets of the United States, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece. If a reduction of immigration intake numbers is out of the question then perhaps a shift away from Asia and back to Europe and to the Americas is warranted.


arg said...


PaxCanadiana said...

Wow! A shortage of 2,000 nurses.

I stand corrected. I see now why we need 300 million immigrants a year especially from the Philippines, India, and China to fill nursing shortages across the country.

I mean, how could I have not seen it? It makes total sense now.

Patrick Chun said...

I have been a professional engineer for about 20 years, and if you believe what they feed you as "shortage", we should be importing thousands of foreign engineers into Canada every year.

I agree with many of your view that importing labour is not the answer. What cannot be cultivated organically cannot be fixed simply by importing people. At least not at the high level we are doing now.

I wrote to our government about curbing our immigration level a few months back. It would be good if we can compare notes...

Patrick Chun