Monday, 8 October 2012

Yet Another Post On The Myth Of The Skills Shortage.

We're routinely bombarded by the statement that Canada faces a skills shortage and we need a large and an increasing number of immigrants to meet the shortfalls.  Before we can accept this claim at face value we need to consider some details first.

The Toronto Star reported on a recent OECD study on education among it's member states.  It found that Canada displayed a "paradox" not seen in the other member nations.
A unique Canadian paradox means Canada has the best educated adults in the industrialized world, but a baffling chunk of them earn well below the median wage.{...} 
The youngest and oldest extremes of the workforce comprise most of the paradox: 25-34 year olds who say they are still studying, and 55-65 year olds who say they are retired or semi-retired. 
But that doesn’t explain it all, said de Broucker, who is also chief of a working group for the 34-country Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.“We need to understand why there is a paradox: if there is a Lost Generation.” 
More than 17 per cent of working-age Canadians with education beyond high school earned less than half the national median employment income in 2009, de Broucker reported. 
Is it because Canada is producing more college and university graduates than it has jobs for? Are there too many humanities and fitness grads, who typically make up more of the under-earners? 
Are vast numbers of Canadians over 55 finding themselves in lower-paying jobs, or taking buyouts to retire early?
This part is important:
Immigration status was also a factor, said de Broucker, who discovered the Canadian paradox and brought it to the OECD’s attention. This was true not only for recent immigrants but for those in Canada from 10 to 29 years, who were more likely to be earning way below their education levels.  
Furthermore we have this to ponder:
Indeed, Canada spends the third highest amount on college and university students among the OECD countries, after Switzerland and the United States: approximately $20,600 per student,the report said. 
Canada ranked first in the proportion of adults with a college or university education, with double the average of highly educated people over 55 among the OECD countries. 
That strength is beginning to fray, however: Canada is falling behind in numbers of younger people getting a college or university degree, the report said. 
Canada has spawned a paradox at the other end of the education scale as well, de Broucker said. 
Compared with other industrialized countries, a high number of Canadians with a high school diploma or less are earning very good incomes. 
“We have an economy that allows some people to earn a significant amount of money through jobs that don’t require a tertiary education. This would be driven by our resource economy.”
So Canada has the highest proportion of its workforce with a college or university education out of all OECD countries; more so than the U.S., Japan, the U.K., or Germany.  Also, Canada ranks third in spending on education just behind Switzerland and the U.S.  It seems we're doing more than enough in comparison to other OECD nations in meeting the "skills shortage" Canada allegedly suffers from.

It can be argued that it's a skills mismatch that is occurring and that, indeed, Canada is producing "too many humanities and fitness grads" instead of tradesmen and STEM graduates (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).  There may be some truth in this but I don't think it's wholly accurate.

Norman Matloff  is a computer science professor at UC, Davis and has been commenting on the state the U.S.'s high-tech industry for the past several years particularly that of the computer industry.  In this New York Times op-ed piece from 2011 he writes:
Now, as in 2000, companies are complaining of dire shortages of people with computer science degrees. How about a reality check? 
In spring 2011, starting salaries for computer science grads were only up 3 percent from a year ago. A widely publicized report in May by Dice, the big online job board, claims a "tech talent crunch" in its title, yet concedes that salaries for tech workers (overall, that is, both new and experienced) are up less than 1 percent. These numbers obviously don't indicate a shortage. And those over 35 still face a tough market. 
Yes, some students today are indeed captivated by the Facebook phenomenon, captured in "The Social Network." But the savvier college students, especially those whose parents have been squeezed out of tech by age discrimination, are understandably skeptical. Indeed, many of the best and the brightest, exactly the ones the industry ought to keep, have sought greener pastures. In 2007, 29 percent of M.I.T. grads went to Wall Street rather than Silicon Valley, at far higher wages, a disparity that continued even after the financial crisis.
That being the case then why are U.S. companies "complaining of dire shortages of people with computer science degrees" if in actuality one doesn't exist?  The simply truth is that if a skills shortage exists as they allege then they can abuse the H-1B visa program (a work visa for the U.S.) to import younger and cheaper labour from overseas.

The notion that the U.S., with it's well funded and extensive education system, is not producing enough STEM graduates to meet it's labour market needs is absurd!  And for Canada, with it's smaller market and near non-existent high-tech sector, to make a similar claim is an absolute joke and an insult to our intelligence!
What we have then is not a paradox but an issue of over-supply of skilled labour.  Canadians are finding themselves facing a precarious labour market and are staying in school longer and later in life to improve their prospects.  Or they are forced into taking early retirement since the jobs they once performed no longer exist having been outsourced abroad and are not coming back anytime soon. Canada has more skilled workers than it knows what to do with.  This point is further made by the fact that immigrants, those who were imported to address the "skills shortage" problem, are themselves likely to be earning way below their education levels even after spending 10 to 29 years in Canada.

But the beat goes on.  In the Toronto Star we are told Ontario needs to attract at least 135,000 newcomers a year "to keep its economic engine running beyond 2014" or so says a panel of "experts" who also warn the province will suffer a "skills shortage" in 2025 instead of 2020 or 2015 or whatever year they need it to be to make their projections believable.

And who are these "experts"?  A 13 member panel composed of economists, people working in immigrant settlement, and corporate and industry "leaders".  Economists are just crystal ball gazers whose only real purpose in life is to make astrology look respectable.  As for the people working in immigrant settlement and for the corporate and industry leaders their self-interest in maintaining high immigration levels is so apparent it need not be pointed out.  When Ontario is losing it's manufacturing capacity and the well paying jobs that go with it there is no sense in pursuing increasing population growth in the province when the jobs are not there to support it.  Ontario losing it's attractiveness to immigrants is a good thing but don't expect these dimwits on this 13 member panel to realize it.  Their advice should be taken with a grain of salt.

And recently Jason Kenney enjoyed a photo-op to mark the 20,000th immigrant imported under the Canadian Experience Class while announcing the shortening of time a temporary foreign worker can apply for permanent residency status from two years down to one.  Why this is something to celebrate is beyond me but when the 20,000th CEC immigrant got a job in a bank it makes sense since the financial sector in Canada is a major player in the Canadian economy and a  major beneficiary of mass immigration since to them immigrants are not people but bank accounts, mortgages, and small business loans.  They bring money with them quite possibly to launder if it comes from corrupt countries like China and India where few people get rich without greasing a few palms here and there.  Undoubtedly Canada's "big five" (or "big six" if you include National Bank of Canada) have been pressuring Ottawa to keep immigration levels high and to keep increasing them since it's good for business (and I guess what's good for the "big six" banks is good for Canada right?).  And to attract the business of "new Canadians" they have been going on a hiring blitz where the colour of one's skin and ethnic background are more important than one's credentials.

So to recap Canada has the highest proportion of its workforce with a college or university education out of all OECD countries; ranks third in spending on education among all OECD nations; has the best educated adults in the industrialized world, but a baffling chunk of them earn well below the median wage which is especially true for immigrants, even those who have been in Canada for 10 to 29 years; that a high number of Canadians with a high school diploma or less are earning very good incomes; yet we have have a "skills shortage."  Highly educated Canadians, including immigrants, are earning well below the median wage while those with just a high school education or less are earning very good incomes.  But we have a "skills shortage."  Really!!! Are you kidding me!?

Fortunately it seems few people are buying it as the comments to this Toronto Star article suggest but that's to be expected from us rabble who have to witness and experience the immigration debacle first hand.

The "skills shortage" myth is a scare tactic to pacify Canadians into embracing an immigration system that works against their interests.  When the Toronto Star editorializes and trumpets the dubious claim that Ontario needs to attract 135,000 immigrants a year what it's really saying is the Toronto Star needs 135,000 potential readers each year to sell their eyeballs to advertisers so that the journalists can keep their jobs and TorStar shareholders happy.  When the business lobby cries of a "skills shortage" what it's really saying is there is a shortage of cheap skilled labour and that they're too stingy and lazy to invest in and train and retain a workforce.  When politicians uncritically accept these claims they are just using it as a means to pad their resumes for post public-office employment by cozzying up to the business lobby and to import votes while pandering to ethnic/immigrant vote blocs to stay in power.  Ultimately Canadians realize few if any real benefits from the immigration system but it isn't designed to benefit us anyway.

5 comments:

Alain said...

Regardless the fact remains that Canada continues to take in way too many immigrants per year in relation to the economy. Until we get a government willing to address this issue, it will only get worse. It is insane that Canada accepts the largest number of immigrants of all classes per capita than any other country.

Anonymous said...

Of course it is. My workplace fired 35 people in it's IT department last year.34 where white males over 30. Demographically the department is about 60% recent immigrant, and they are working for about 65-70 % of all our former salaries. As an older programmer, I can't get work, because it is assumed that I want too much money; (15 years of experience) When I do get an interview, on several occasions the interviewer has had 'marginal' english skills. I have also noticed that companies are completly un-interested in traing; I have seen posting open for over a year, when 6-8 weeks of on-the-job training would have it filled. But the bank would rather wait, untill they can get a 'perfect' candidate from Shanghi, and pay them an entry-level salary.

Jess said...

The increasing number of Canadians like you and the majority of commenters on this blog are the reason I no longer call it home. This type of rhetoric breeds the type of hatred and disunity you're trying to decry...

What about language skills (and I don't just mean French)? Our skilled graduates lag woefully behind other growing economic powers in multiple language competency, hurting Canada's global business competitiveness. Look at the most stable growing emerging economies in the world today: multilingualism has allowed them to be adaptable enough to break into diverse markets. It's not just about being able to communicate in other languages - multilingualism brings with it the ability to understand the cultural nuances that are so important for success in different markets.

Encouraging highly-skilled migrants from a variety of backgrounds to settle in Canada also enhances the creative spectrum of our population, driving forward the innovative spirit that has made Canada strong. Japanese and American limits on highly-skilled immigration have caused them to lag behind in entrepreneurship and technological advances since the turn of the century, an area they once triumphed in (when external cultural influences were more prominent, and skilled immigration levels were higher, respectively). In comparison, countries with diversity at the levels of Israel and India show that heterogeneous populations thrive in innovation.
Before you throw up the typical right wing defense mechanisms, I'm not in favour of unrestrained immigration, but Canada has room for smart population growth through immigration, geographically and economically.

Wouldn't it be more valuable to use this blog as a forum to present options for immigration reform and how they would impact Canadians (as your blog/affiliation seems to suggest your aim is), instead of posting solely anecdotal stories to scaremonger people into resenting ALL immigrants? It is really damaging to the credibility of your cause. You are not going to win over any Canadians who are centrist or further left to your cause if you keep using the same tired xenophobic language that the far right has used for years.

PaxCanadiana said...

The increasing number of Canadians like you and the majority of commenters on this blog are the reason I no longer call it home.

Well, I'll give you the same advice people such as yourself give to people like me: go live somewhere else if you don't like it.

Our skilled graduates lag woefully behind other growing economic powers in multiple language competency, hurting Canada's global business competitiveness.

That complete bullsh**t.

Canada is an English speaking country and English is the lingua franca in the world of commerce, science, and art. Canadians may not be as multilingual as you wish them to be but it's because we don't have to be. The only language that is advantageous for English speaking Canadians to learn is French and the reason for that is obvious. Aside from that there is little need to learn Mandarin, Japanese, Italian, Greek, Swahili, Hindi, Urdu, etc. In fact the vast majority of world languages are useless to learn outside of English, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic and that's because those are languages spoken in many countries.

All companies with an international reach have employees who speak English for the simple reasons that not only is English a major world language but it is also cost effective to have English as the common language of business. It's too costly to hire employees who speak the myriad of world dialects just for its own sake.

With that said there is little substance to your claim that the lack of Canadians' multilingual abilities is hurting Canadian competitiveness.

Encouraging highly-skilled migrants from a variety of backgrounds to settle in Canada also enhances the creative spectrum of our population, driving forward the innovative spirit that has made Canada strong.

More bullsh**t! You can't prove that. It's just a baseless assumption. Were it true then why does Canada lag other industrial nations in innovation and productivity? It can be argued that Canada's reliance on mass immigration is a reason for it.

Wouldn't it be more valuable to use this blog as a forum to present options for immigration reform and how they would impact Canadians (as your blog/affiliation seems to suggest your aim is), instead of posting solely anecdotal stories to scaremonger people into resenting ALL immigrants?

What you dismiss as "anecdotal evidence" are symptoms pointing to a deeper, chronic problem. Also, calling them "anecdotal" implies there is no substance to them but this is not true. Studies, analysis, and scholarly work by educated men and women on the subject are not "anecdotal" but research based on data. There is more to their work than the baseless assumptions in your post.

You are not going to win over any Canadians who are centrist or further left to your cause if you keep using the same tired xenophobic language that the far right has used for years.

Far right? And you call me a scare mongerer? Isn't that the kind of anti-intellectual slam the left use to demonize opinions they disagree with to scare away who posses a middle ground?

Speaking of which you're assuming those who are centrist inherently disagree with me. That's more bulls**t. The viewpoint I express on this blog may be more popular than you realize.

Let's be clear. I'm not opposed to immigration and most Canadians are not but there are problems with the immigration system and the effects that it is imposing on the lives of Canadians. And since it does affect our daily lives then we have a right to voice our objections to it.

Anonymous said...

"The increasing number of Canadians like you and the majority of commenters on this blog are the reason I no longer call it home. This type of rhetoric breeds the type of hatred and disunity you're trying to decry..."

Ditto to Pax's invitation for you to find another home in the world... don't let the door hit you on the way out, eh?

In fact, I have just the country for you to experience all the "love" and "unity" you desire... here ya go. Bye!