Did you know that in July there were more Canadians aged 65 years or older than there were children? According to Statistics Canada’s latest population scan, there were 6 million people of retirement age compared to 5.8 million children. Canada is aging fast, with significant implications for its economy and social fabric. In BC alone, a whopping 69% of the 934,000 job openings in the next 10 years will be due to retirements.
With these significant demographic shifts and workforce gaps in many sectors, how can we ensure Canada’s economic growth, increased innovation and productivity?
At a time of growing global competition and slowing economic growth, continuing access to international talent with diverse perspectives, networks and skills will be vital for our country’s success. And we’ll need to have adequate policies and programs in place to ensure meaningful labour attachment for newcomers to Canada – oftentimes the best path to learn about and integrate into their new homeland.
What this means is that immigration initiatives must align well with workforce strategies and must build on existing labour market programs and services. This also means that both the employers and industry groups must be educated about the changes to the various streams in our immigration system to facilitate their access to the new Canadians coming in through these programs.
And we’ll need to ensure there is accessible, effective, and comprehensive support to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) – the backbone of Canada’s economy. Because many SMEs have little experience with or capacity to tap into immigrant talent, they need tools, resources and training to effectively incorporate skilled immigrants into their workforce mix.
For SMEs and large businesses, especially in high-growth sectors, there should be more focus on the retention of skilled international talent that can boost our innovation and productivity and that will contribute to making Canada a true knowledge economy, such as international students.
Immigration initiatives should also aim to better assess where the gaps are between skills required and potential international workers by industry, and according to city and/or region.
Over the last year, our country has welcomed 320,000 newcomers – the largest number on record – and they will need adequate supports, fair regulations and nimble solutions to maximize their potential to become part of Canada’s diverse human capital.
Later this fall, the Federal Government is expected to announce sweeping changes to reduce ‘barriers’ to immigration. We are hoping that the proposed policies and regulations will be able to adequately meet both the needs of Canada’s employers and skilled New Canadians entering our labour market.