Quebec 2022: Labor shortages hit multiple sectors

Quebec 2022: Labor shortages hit multiple sectors

Staff shortages, small and medium-sized companies are at the end of their strength, claim business circles, which describe the shortage of workers as the greatest challenge for the next government.

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Difficulty finding employees means SMEs are forced to pay higher wages even as inflation increases other costs related to the production of goods or the provision of services.

“This means that SME managers have to work more, reduce hours, cancel projects and in some cases even refuse contracts,” said François Vincent, vice president for Quebec at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“This is slowing down our economic recovery,” adds Karl Blackburn, President and CEO of the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ). The strength of our economy will not be as strong as it should be due to labor shortages. This is the number one issue in Quebec and political parties need to address it during the election campaign. »

Real motives?

According to Mr Blackburn, the main cause of the labor shortage is demographic. “It’s simple: there are more workers exiting the labor market than entering it. So we face a big challenge: we need to find 1.4 million workers by 2030.”

However, some consider this view of the problem to be flawed.

“Only in Quebec do we think that, but it’s not true,” says economist Pierre Fortin. The labor force continues to grow in Quebec. There is no cut. Business demand is growing faster than the increase in labor availability because the economy is simply strong. »

“Such a low unemployment rate is normal in an economy that regularly operates at high levels. Business leaders will eventually understand,” he adds.

pool of workers

Although they disagree on the causes of the labor shortage, the economist and the president of the Conseil du patronat agree that there is no panacea for the labor shortage.

“There are several solutions, such as keeping experienced employees on the job market, driving digitization or improving on-the-job training, but that’s not a menu item,” says Karl Blackburn.

According to the President of the CPQ, we “need to expand the labor pool in every way we can,” particularly by raising our immigration thresholds. In business, the saying goes that we should be welcoming up to 100,000 new immigrants annually, while the Legault government estimates Quebec’s integration capacity at 50,000.

For their part, the Liberals have already announced that they intend to take in 70,000 immigrants a year until the regions themselves identify their needs in this area, in order to cope with the increase in the number of vacancies.

This threshold is the same as that set by the CAQ for 2022 to compensate for a delay accumulated during the pandemic. “If we’re able to integrate that number for a given year, I see no reason why we couldn’t always do that,” says François Vincent of the CFIB.

complex situation

“Of course, immigration is a solution. But it is a very complex measure and the process takes a very long time to bear fruit,” says Pierre Fortin, who points out that selective immigration can be used to solve problems at the local level, but that mass immigration runs the risk of Unemployment to increase again, among other things.

“It’s like putting weight on a balloon: pressure on one side inflates on the other side,” the economist sums up.

  • According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, there would be 253,825 job openings in the province of Quebec, more than double the fourth quarter of 2019 (126,730).
  • The accommodation, construction and manufacturing sectors are hardest hit by labor shortages
  • 63% of SME managers need to work more hours to make up for labor shortages
  • 39% of SMEs are forced to refuse sales or contracts
  • According to 61% of SMEs, the government does not understand the impact of labor shortages on business

Source: Canadian Federation independent business

  • From 2017 to 2021, the average hourly wage in Quebec has increased from $24.85 to $28.81.
  • Wages rose the most in the utilities sector over the same period, rising from an average of $36.49 to $46.21 for each hour worked.
  • In agriculture, retail, education and hospitality, wages rose less than in other sectors.

Source: Statistics Canada

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