A new study by recruiting firm Hays PLC has reported that Canada is facing a severe shortage of skilled workers, and that the recent moves by the government to tighten up the process for hiring foreign workers has made the situation worse.
Among 30 countries ranked in order of the severity of the skilled worker shortage, Canada ranked ninth, behind Russia, Portugal and Mexico.
This ranking is not surprising. For the last several years, Canada has restricted the Federal Skilled Worker category, imposing criteria which drastically limited the number of skilled professionals eligible for Canadian permanent residence. This year, it re-calibrated the points required to qualify, placing a much higher emphasis on English language skills and youth.
On the temporary worker front, the government made the process of hiring foreign workers much more rigorous in response to allegations of outsourcing by a major Canadian bank.
These changes have made it difficult for industries facing a boom – the report names the construction industry as an example – to find the workers it needs. Engineers and mobile technology programmers are named as occupations which are required by employers.
The recent changes to the Labour Market Opinion process, which is required to hire foreign workers, significantly lengthen the time required to fill a labour shortage. In the meantime, Canadian businesses will struggle to meet demands for goods and services.
In the recent budget speech, a new system was promised to select immigrants based upon immediate employer needs. No time should be wasted in bringing this system forward, but Canada’s long term economic needs, which have been well served by the skilled worker category, should not be neglected.