‘An economic catastrophe’: business groups urge Quebec to fight labor shortage

Priorities include processing immigration applications faster and ensuring that many more newcomers settle outside of Montreal, trade officials said at a joint press conference on Friday.

Article content

Five business groups and the Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ) are coming together to sound the alarm about chronic labor shortages in the province and urge the government to raise immigration ceilings forever.

Commercial

Article content

Finance Minister Eric Girard is expected to take robust measures aimed at addressing the problem when he presents his mid-year budget update on November 25, officials such as the executive director of the Conseil du Patronat told reporters in Montreal on Friday. du Québec, Karl Blackburn. Priorities include processing immigration applications faster and ensuring that many more newcomers settle outside of Montreal, they said.

Article content

Like many other jurisdictions, Quebec is grappling with a labor shortage that left nearly 200,000 jobs vacant in the middle of the year in a wide range of industries. The rapid aging of the population adds to the urgency to find solutions: one in four Quebecers will be 65 or older in 2031, compared to one in six in 2011.

Commercial

Article content

“The labor shortage is an economic catastrophe,” Blackburn, head of the province’s largest business lobby, said in an interview Friday. “Every region, every type of business, every level of government is affected. On top of that, things are worse here due to our aging demographics. Every year there are more people who leave the workforce than new members ”.

Article content

Quebec’s labor crisis “is unprecedented,” added the mayor of Gaspé and director of the UMQ, Daniel Côté. “It is hitting us hard in the regions. The economic update is a turning point and we want to ensure that robust and efficient measures are put in place to deal with the crisis quickly. ”

In addition to the Conseil du patronat and the UMQ, the groups that participated in Friday’s press conference were the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec and the Québec Retail Council .

Commercial

Article content

COVID-19 generated a backlog of approximately 18,000 immigration candidates whose applications were not reviewed as planned in 2020. As a result, Quebec last month announced a one-time increase in immigration levels to a record 70,500 by 2022, a move that Business leaders said Friday does not go far enough.

Article content

“Today we ask the government to do more, to step up things,” said Véronique Proulx, director of Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec, which represents some 1,100 exporters. “Immigration is essential. The workforce is not big enough. We have to increase this group. “

Quebec’s decision to raise the immigration ceiling by 2022 “shows that our society is capable of integrating 70,000 immigrants a year,” said François Vincent, vice president of CFIB in the province. “We can review immigration limits without fear. We have to be open to what immigration brings to our society and our economy ”.

Commercial

Article content

Faster approvals are a linchpin of a successful immigration policy, speakers said Friday. Approval times in other provinces can be up to four times shorter, putting pressure on Quebec and Ottawa to agree on ways to speed up the process, Côté said. Due to excessive delays, many would-be immigrants have scrapped their plans to move here, he said.

“It’s not normal. In fact, it’s sad,” Côté said. “We can’t afford to lose these people, because they are part of the solution.”

Efforts must be made to ensure that more immigrants settle in Quebec’s outlying regions, speakers said Friday. This will require the construction of thousands of affordable homes, as well as offering better services to integrate newcomers, Côté said.

Commercial

Article content

While more than 70 percent of all immigrants to Quebec choose to live in Montreal, seven out of 10 vacant jobs in the province are outside the metropolis.

To fill some of those vacancies, Quebec must do a better job of attracting older workers, people with disabilities, former prisoners and First Nations people to join, re-enter or remain in the workforce, Côté said. With the right fiscal measures, Quebec could convince up to 75,000 people between the ages of 60 and 69 to continue working after retirement age, Blackburn said.

Other ideas that emerged on Friday included providing financing to small businesses to help them better train staff, requalify workers or invest in automation and robotics.

Quebec’s labor shortage affects all types of jobs, not just the lowest paid, officials noted during the press conference. Some manufacturers in the Bas-St-Laurent region are struggling to fill entry-level jobs that don’t require a high school diploma and pay $ 27 an hour, Proulx said.

“These are good wages, and even with them, companies can’t find the workers they need,” said Proulx, who estimates that there are more than 25,000 manufacturing jobs in Quebec unfilled. “Immigration is not the only solution, but it is still one of the tools that the government must use.”

[email protected]

    Commercial

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civilized discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to moderate before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a response to your comment, there is an update from a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Principles for more information and details on how to adjust your E-mail settings.

Reference-montrealgazette.com

Leave a Comment