Canada has always been a preferred destination for those seeking new opportunities or simply a peaceful and secure life. There are innumerable stories of families migrating from all parts of the world, settling in Canada, and working hard to build a better life for their future generations. However, Canada’s approach and focus towards immigration has undergone a drastic change.
While new programs like the Express Entry system are very positive and hold a lot of potential, the emphasis on attracting those with the maximum experience or the most educational qualifications may prove to be the programs undoing.
Such an approach would not have been an issue if all job vacancies in Canada had been at the senior levels. However, the ground reality in Canada is that most job vacancies are either at entry level or at levels where employees are required to possess junior skill sets. The Express Entry system is unlikely to solve labor shortages requiring junior skilled employees. Ironically, those immigrants who come to Canada find themselves overqualified for the jobs on offer.
The disillusionment is not restricted to immigrants alone. Canada is one of the top-ranked nations in the world in terms of post-secondary educational degrees and qualifications. Yet, young Canadians who have incurred student debt in excess of $50,000 securing multiple degrees discover that most jobs involve working at the local grocery store or pizza outlet.
Organizations in the hospitality and retail sector are struggling to find and retain talent even in large cities. In rural and remote regions that are rich in natural resources, businesses struggle to find suitable workers despite the presence of a large number of lucrative jobs.
The scale of the problem is evident from the fact that one tenth of all small businesses in Canada resort to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to tackle the problem of labor shortage. Unfortunately, this program has its own flaws and shortcomings. As of now, even this Program is no longer available for small businesses.
Today, small enterprises operating in the hospitality or retail sector are resorting to asking the working staff to put in more hours, reducing working hours, deferring expansion, or even shutting down the business—there are very few choices left and most of them are unattractive.
The conventional solution of hiking wages to attract talent too is not working. In the fast-growing provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the rate of increase in wages is significantly outpacing the rate of inflation. Wage rates are rising faster than the rate at which the national wage rate is increasing. Industries in the hospitality sector also struggle with significantly lower margins as compared to the natural resources industry.
The plain truth is that there are many jobs in the country and many provinces in Canada where supply of labor is just not increasing. The success of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program despite the controversy surrounding temporary hiring of foreign workers indicates that Canadian youngsters are very choosy when it comes to selecting a job.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has proposed that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program be replaced by a solution addressing the labor shortage on a permanent basis. Introducing an ‘Introduction to Canada Visa’ targeting entry-level workers in foreign countries could address the critical shortages of labor faced by small businesses.
Such a move will return the immigration system of Canada back to its roots. Such a program will provide a platform for a skilled immigrant, irrespective of the level of skill, to work in Canada for a few years and become eligible to apply for permanent residence.
Job vacancy rates for the third quarter of 2014 indicate that unfilled jobs have risen by 2.7% all across the nation. This figure is at its highest level since the 2008 recession. Increase in job vacancies is inevitable when unemployment falls. Yet, this has created a desperate situation for small business owners in Canada.
Today, the Express Entry system would probably deny permission to many individuals who moved to Canada many decades ago. Instead of focusing solely on high-end qualifications, the immigration system should encourage inflow of all immigrants who are ready to work hard and create a better future for their families.