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Canada facing labour shortages - immigration can help fill the gap if done right

Immigrants can help to rescue Canada from a long-term slowdown in economic growth, but only if immigration policies are modernized, The Conference Board of Canada argues in an article published in the July-August 2010 edition of Policy Options.

“The recession gave employers only temporary relief from workforce shortages. Job creation has resumed in recent months, and the looming retirement of baby boomers will only erode the labour supply in the longer term,” said Glen Hodgson, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist, and author of the article. “Immigration can provide an important source of labour, if done right.”

Canada’s unemployment rate is expected to fall below eight per cent by the end of 2010, but it could fall to as low as six per cent in the years to come as the economy recovers and the large cohort of baby boomers leave the workforce.

The Conference Board’s long-term economic forecast assumes that immigration levels will rise to about 350,000 annually by 2030. If Canada is to increasingly rely on immigrants as a source of labour, it needs a modernized, integrated and well-managed immigration policy. Such a policy would:

• Increase the weight given to economic factors, recognizing the importance of skills-based immigration to address Canada’s labour market needs;

• Streamline the immigration system to reduce misalignment among different levels of government;
• Expand the use of temporary foreign worker programs to fill short-term gaps in labour markets;

• Increase upfront involvement by employers, so they are part of the decision-making process;

• Create new and improved pathways to permanent residency for temporary foreign workers and foreign students; and

• Improve foreign credential recognition.

Posted: Jul 15, 2010

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