No end in sight for B.C. labour shortfall: study

Retiring baby boomers causing demographic labour pool shift

The future looks bright for the next generation entering the B.C. labour force, according to an economic analysis by Business Development Bank of Canada.

Pierre Cleroux, BDC’s chief economist, predicts the province’s health economy coupled with a shortage of workers will create a tremendous opportunity for appropriately skilled job seekers over the next decade.

Cleroux says B.C.’s current labour shortage is more acute in the Okanagan than other regions in Canada, noting BDC’s analysis found 45 per cent of businesses across the province report having difficulty hiring new employees.

He said the hardest hit industries are manufacturing, retail and construction, the latter two most widely evident across the Okanagan Valley by the plethora of job vacancy billboards signage outside businesses and construction projects delays incurred due to labour shortfalls.

Related: Health care, high tech jobs top B.C. employment forecast

Cleroux said the labour shortage is a reflection of the aging population demographics—in 10 years some 25 per cent of Canadians will be retired, compared to only 12 per cent a decade ago.

“The baby boomers are now starting to retire and there are not enough people coming up behind them to fill the jobs they are vacating,” he said.”It is an issue for B.C. but it’s going to be an issue for the entire country moving forward.”

The solutions to that problem, he says, lie in further technology investment to off-set labour shortfalls, employers continuing to seek greater operating efficiency, hiring more immigrant workers and marketing your workplace as a great place to work among existing and new employees.

Cleroux said the immigrant issue is particularly perplexing, as Statistics Canada data shows immigrants will account for about two-thirds of Canada’s population growth by 2022, and up to 80 per cent by 2032, yet currently only 18 per cent of Canadian entrepreneurs report looking to immigrant workers to fill their needs for skilled employees, according to the BDC report.

“The labour force is changing across Canada reflecting a greater reliance on immigrant workers and it takes time for those adjustments to become the new reality. These people are coming to this country and want to work, they are bringing considerable skills, so we need to adapt to this new reality.”

Related: Who will care for fraily elderly?

Cleroux said having to dedicate more time to creating a marketing strategy to fill job postings can be daunting for time-stressed small business operators, but is necessary to remain competitive in a job market.

For B.C., Cleroux also downplayed the significance of increasing the minimum wage, saying it only makes lower skilled jobs more expensive to fill, making the trade-off opportunities to use technology to streamline production a more attractive option.

“There is a much better solution to help people with lower skills to get more employable skills and find better jobs, and that is education. Education is everything.”

Cleroux said B.C. is also well positioned to benefit from the increasing growth demands of the technology sector across North America, as the province technology sector has a current annual growth rate of about five per cent.

“That is a phenomenal growth rate and it’s not likely to change as technology advancement becomes more and more important to companies. It’s a great way to diversify an economy and evolve out of the dependence on resource-based industries like forestry and mining.”

He said the healthcare sector will also continue to expand, another reflection of the aging population factor.

“That is great news for young people. The number of healthcare jobs has steadily increased in recent years, and it is just the beginning. With our aging population, the demand for health service workers is going to explode.”

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@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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