A new report from the Conference Board of Canada has found that in Ontario alone, the gap between the skills that workers have and the skills that employers need is costing the province almost $24-billion per year. Despite the increasing university-graduation levels, employers say that one in five positions cannot be filled.
Despite being one of the most educated countries in the developed world, Canadians are falling behind in the skills that matter most in today’s economy, argues Conference Board of Canada Vice-President Michael Bloom. A recent OECD report ranked Canada 15th out of 19 countries in technological problem solving, reflecting Canadians’ poor testing in numeracy, literacy and problem solving.
Bloom argues for a post-secondary education strategy that will bring together members of private sectors, the government, universities, trade schools, apprenticeship programs and community services. He says that an empirical focus on cooperation, communication and coordination can help these institutions and stakeholders come together to produce workers whose skills are valued and needed in today’s economy.
The Conference Board of Canada is helping to push this goal by launching its own Centre for Skills and Post-Secondary Education with a summit in Toronto this month.
The five-year initiative is intended to bring the above groups together to ensure not only that Canada can produce the workers that it will increasingly need in the coming years, but also to remain a competitive destination for the best and brightest students both in Canada and internationally who are looking for a post-secondary education that will give them an advantage in today’s knowledge economy.
Source: Globe and Mail
Experts are concerned that Quebec’s controversial Charter of Values could end up driving away the much-desired francophone immigrants who help keep the language alive in the province.
Immigrants from French-speaking countries like Lebanon, Algeria and Morocco have long been among the biggest group of new arrivals to the province, whose immigration system is specifically built to target French speakers. However, many of the immigrants from those countries are also Muslim, which involves donning religious symbols such as the hijab as a part of everyday dress.
The highly controversial Charter of Values would ban the wearing of any such religious apparel for all public-sector employees, meaning that many Muslim women, for instance, would not be able to work in public schools, hospitals or government.
According to Statistics Canada, Montreal currently has the second-largest Muslim community thanks to the influx of French-speakers in recent years. However, officials with the Quebec government argue that the Charter of Values will not hinder Muslim immigration, but rather help to attract “moderate” Muslims.
“I think there are a lot of people from Maghreb and Lebanon and elsewhere who choose Quebec because it is a secular society,” said Montreal Minister Jean-François Lisée. “If we send a message that here in Quebec we take secularism seriously, we will have moderate Muslims, moderate Christians, and moderate Sikhs, who say ‘I like my religion a lot at home, but I like a secular state,’ and Quebec is a progressive state that sends that message.”
However, experts on the other side of the debate, such as executive vice-president of the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration Jack Jedwab, argue that the Charter will instead drive away desirable immigrants.
“People don’t like places where there are restrictions on people’s rights and where there is intolerance toward certain religious minorities,” said Jedwab. “These people do have choices and this kind of instability is not attractive.”
Many officials have come out publicly against the Charter in recent weeks, including the president of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec. For now the province appears intent on moving ahead with the controversial policy.
Source: Montreal Gazette
Officials in Saskatchewan this month proposed changes to the province’s Immigrant Nominee Program, starting in January 2014.
The changes are intended to improve the system by balancing the interests of both immigrants and government, according to Saskatchewan Economy Minister Bill Boyd.
“There was a broad-based consultation with people across the province – immigrant consultants, immigrants themselves, immigrant communities,” said Boyd upon announcing the changes. “[We] had discussions with them about it to determine what they thought was a proper course of action, recognizing, of course, the federal government had parameters that we had to work within.”
One significant change is the move from nine different immigrant categories to three, with most former streams being consolidated. For instance, family member applications will fall under the new international skilled worker category, which recognizes applicants who have either the skills or social support base necessary to succeed.
The system will also move to a solely online application process, which will itself be streamlined and offer as many resources as possible for newcomers.
Critics expressed skepticism about the success of the new program, but did acknowledge that some form of change is necessary.
“What I will say is the government’s track record when it comes to the SINP isn’t a positive one,” said Opposition Leader Cam Broten. “We’ve seen huge problems that were created when the government unilaterally, without consultation, changed the program and created a lot of chaos and a lot of problems for a lot of families, so I hope that this has happened in a better way.”
Source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
The Quebec government has announced plans to reduce immigration levels over the next two years in order to help improve integration levels.
The announcement comes in the midst of a heated public debate over the provincial government’s planned Charter of Values, which would ban the wearing of religious apparel for public sector workers.
The government says that lowering immigration target levels for 2014 is part of a larger strategy that was in place long before the controversy erupted over the new charter.
In 2012 approximately 55,000 newcomers arrived in Quebec. The government aims to accept between 49,000 and 52,500 for 2014 and further trim that number to between 48,500 and 51,500 for 2015.
The government says that the reduction will help to improve efforts to better integrate newcomers into Quebec life. It is also intended to ensure that immigrants are able to function and succeed in French, the province’s first official language.
Quebec is falling behind other provinces in terms of population growth, so officials are watching closely to see how immigration levels are affecting social conditions and the economy.
For years Quebec has had more jurisdiction over immigration matters than any other province, and has used that power to focus on attracting French-speaking newcomers to keep the language alive. The government intends to spend $13.5 million per year over the next three years on immigrant language services.
The province also intends to hold public consultations to guide immigration policies over the long-term.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
Two new reports are suggesting that Canada’s impending labour shortage might not be as severe as experts had been warning for the past several years.
This fall both the Toronto Dominion Bank and Montreal’s Institute for Research on Public Policy released reports suggesting that there is little evidence supporting the labour shortage theory.
Despite repeated warnings of labour shortages, both from the Canadian government trying to justify policy decisions as well as from employers who claim to be having difficulty finding the workers they need, economists say there is little evidence to support such claims.
The TD report looked at job vacancy rates across the country, as well as shifts in wage patterns, and found that despite the continued growth in the Prairies, employer demands in the West are being offset by unemployment in other areas of the country.
“We definitely don’t have broad labour shortages right now, because we still have effectively more workers looking for work than there are positions,” said Cliff Halliwell, author of the Institute for Research on Public Policy report. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t places, say, in Northern Alberta, where they’re facing difficulties hiring workers or in specific occupations.”
In fact, employers looking to fill precisely those positions are often the ones who raise the shortage issue, and look to the temporary foreign worker program to find the labour they need. So far this year the government appears to be bringing in more temporary workers than last year, with recent program changes expected to spark continued interest in the program.
Experts say that policy-makers would be better off focusing their efforts toward increased training and skills matching, rather than trying to grow the overall labour pool.
Source: Globe and Mail
A new report suggests that the Canadian unemployment rate will likely not spark inflation in the near future.
The report, issued this month by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, suggests that there is still plenty of breathing room in terms of jobless rates before the Bank of Canada would have to step in and raise interest rates.
“Demographic and public policy changes in recent years have lowered the non-inflationary rate of unemployment,” said CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld upon release of the study. “That will allow the Bank of Canada to keep rates low for long, and press ahead towards further labour market improvements.”
In other words, say experts, the concept of “full employment” is changing, as the central bank now has more room to sit back on interest rates than ever before. Shenfeld asserts that such a shift works in favour of those who are seeking work in this competitive labour market.
The authors of the study predict that there will be no change in the Bank of Canada rates until 2015, due to a variety of factors including unemployment benefits and weakening of unions.
Meanwhile the European Central Bank is cutting their interest rate to a record-low 0.25 percent, as unemployment rates sit at record highs with little forecast for job growth. The U.S. economy reported better numbers than expected, with GDP outpacing predictions from Wall Street.
Source: Globe and Mail
The cost of relocating to Canada is higher than most immigrants expect it to be, say local advocates who recommend that newcomers have access to as much funding as possible upon initial arrival.
The government recommends that immigrants have at least $17,000 in savings upon arrival in Canada, but that figure is much too low according to immigrants and their community service providers.
Even if immigrants are able to secure a job, a bank account and accommodations before their arrival in Canada, there are still often unforeseen challenges to deal with, including unexpected costs of living and lack of credit in Canada. Relocation service providers say that many newcomers will hold onto property back home after their arrival in Canada, but are likely better off selling their assets and using them to establish themselves here.
Many government programs are in place to support newcomers in adjusting to life in Canada and building the necessary professional and language skills to ensure employment.
However, immigrants could benefit from more financial advice, including information on how to purchase a home or establish credit. Additionally, financial experts recommend that immigrants begin investing in RRSPs and RESPs as quickly as they can.
“For a lot of immigrants who come from overseas, one of the main reasons is to give their kids a better education, a better future,” says financial advisor Eric Liu, who immigrated to Canada over two decades ago. “If you don’t save for their education how can you achieve that goal?”
Source: Globe and Mail
The Canadian job market is beginning to show signs of recovery, according to the latest data released from Statistics Canada.
This month’s labour force survey showed that the unemployment rate held steady at a five-year low of 6.9 percent, while over 13,000 new jobs were created.
While the steady numbers came as good news to some, other economic analysts say the figures are masking other more disconcerting trends under the surface. The manufacturing sector, for instance, is losing record numbers of jobs, according to the survey.
Additionally, the jobs being created are more likely to be low-skilled and low-paying employment, with most new positions arising in the health-care, accommodation, and service sectors.
Employers in Alberta and Saskatchewan have increased their recruitment efforts in places like Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, according to Workopolis.com president Kelly Dixon. This reflects the continued trend of growth in the Prairie provinces, as well as the high unemployment rates in the Eastern Maritime provinces, where workers are more likely to relocate for jobs.
The health care sector’s growth is being attributed to Canada’s aging population, while gains in construction are mostly fuelled by government stimulus initiatives, though some experts point to a hot housing market in recent years.
Source: Globe and Mail