Workers Wanted – Canada’s Labour Shortage

By Isabella Diez, Co-President

As the country begins to re-open, the return to a pre-pandemic life is on the horizon, but will Canada’s current labour shortage delay this? 

As restrictions and regulations began to be lifted earlier this year, job vacancies increased by 22% from June to May with more than 800,000 job vacancies. 

Canadian businesses increasingly are having problems finding workers, with 84% of companies stating they are expecting to have hiring issues this year. In addition, about a third of companies currently have vacant positions with no foreseeable new hires. 

The majority of these job vacancies are in the hotel, food services, health care and retail industries, contributing to Canada’s highest vacancy rate of 5%. Provinces that have been hit the hardest by this labour shortage are Quebec and British Columbia.

Many analysts believe that this shortage is in part the result of federal income support due to Covid-19. Benefits such as Employment Insurance (EI) have been instrumental in providing monthly income to many individuals who have been negatively affected by Covid-19. Some people are receiving more money with government benefits than had they been working, although the majority of individuals do require these benefits to survive. 

Small businesses are criticizing the federal government because there is a lack of Covid-19 income benefits for businesses, namely the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). Without adequate financial support from the government, these businesses are struggling to hire part-time employees, thus affecting their ability to continue their operations.

Although these government benefits may be to blame for labour shortages, Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada states that before the pandemic Canada was already in short supply of labour. Canada’s unemployment rate was 5.6% in December of 2019 which then increased to 13.7% in April of 2020.

Companies have indicated that many of their hiring issues are related to finding employees with the required skill set. Businesses are facing a skills gap, with many applicants not having the necessary hard and soft skills.  This challenge of hiring employees is exacerbated by increased competition in the market.

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