Opinion: Ten solutions to the labor shortage in Quebec


Business ambitions require human capital, in all fields, all regions and at all salary levels.

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Not a day goes by without news of the real impacts of the current labor shortage. The province’s aging population will make this a reality at least until 2030. How can we reverse the trend?

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With 181,030 positions already to be filled – and on the rise – it can be argued that the labor shortage is in fact a labor crisis, with the unemployment rate in Quebec at a historic low and the employment rate reaching new heights. This translates into lost contracts, canceled investments, forced shutdowns, hard knocks to regional economies and overworked employees – and employers.

Business solutions, from salary and benefit increases to hiring bonuses, only displace the workforce. New workers don’t suddenly materialize.

What should be a promising post-pandemic recovery may, for some sectors, be dead in the water. Business ambitions require human capital, in all fields, all regions and at all salary levels.

There are viable solutions: training, innovation and increasing the labor pool. Yet the months go by. What is holding things back?

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Here is what the Quebec Employers Council considers to be the 10 best ways to alleviate the crisis and spark hope for a real revival in all sectors of the province. Every link in the labor chain is essential and the stakes are simply too high to commit to shortcuts and botched efforts.

1. Excellence in innovation and technological change

Quebec businesses need productivity gains. They must invest heavily in new technologies, automation and robotization.

2. Literacy and numeracy

Almost one in two Quebecers is struggling with illiteracy. This is a crisis in itself and makes training and learning new skills all the more complex. Workers simply cannot do without literacy in today’s technological world.

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3. In-company training

Skilled labor is far too scarce. Employers will accept vocational training if they receive adequate support.

4. Experienced workers

Relatively fewer 60-69 year olds are employed in Quebec than in the rest of Canada, and especially compared to Ontario. By keeping pace in 2020, 75,200 more people could work in Quebec. Those who want to keep their jobs need better tax incentives.

5. Employment insurance as a training strategy

Canada will soon be reforming its Employment Insurance (EI) program, a perfect opportunity to add measures to encourage Canadians to take training between job opportunities.

6. Programs for unemployed, education or training youth (NEET)

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Young people make up 54 percent of the workforce for the next decade. As diverse as they are, Emploi-Québec’s programs must be more personalized, both for themselves and for their future employers.

7. Accelerate inclusion

Despite the progress of recent years, finding work remains more difficult for people who are racialized, disabled or have a criminal record, and the same is true for Aboriginal people and those in the LGBTQ + community. There are solutions to rectify this terrible reality.

8. Recognize previous training and experience

Too much education and work experience outside the province goes unrecognized. Educational institutions, employment agencies and employers can increasingly work together to increase the number of certified workers.

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9. Bringing the TFWP into the 21st century

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) allows employers to respond more quickly to their labor needs than permanent resident programs. But the TFWP is still quite rigid and needs an urgent upgrade.

10. Immigration levels that meet the needs of the workforce

Quebec has set its own quotas for new immigrants since 1991. Due to various political considerations, these numbers have continued to decline over the past three years. Quebec now receives 12 per cent of immigrants entering the country, while it represents 23 per cent of the total population of Canada. These quotas must be increased. Employment remains an excellent means of integrating newcomers, socially, economically and linguistically. Salary levels cannot be barriers to entry.

The economy is a chain, and the weakening of one of its links ultimately compromises its strength.

Karl Blackburn is President and CEO of the Quebec Employers Council.

  1. Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard displays his budget speech in front of a shoe store, on the eve of a provincial budget speech, Wednesday March 24, 2021 in Quebec City.  The employers' group of the Conseil du patronat made various recommendations to the minister, including measures to address the labor shortage and upgrade skills, writes Karl Blackburn.

    Opinion: Human capital is the key to Quebec’s economic recovery

  2. Eligible municipalities like Longueuil must submit a development plan to the provincial Ministry of the Economy to obtain funding.

    Quebec allocates $ 25 million to help city centers recover from COVID-19

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