Just when we need labour most, it isn’t there.
With the Ontario government’s announcement that we need 1.5 million new homes in Ontario, another number must be kept in mind.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) says 3.5 million more homes must be built by 2030 to achieve affordability. The biggest housing crunches are happening in Ontario and in British Columbia.
But at least 100,000 more skilled workers are needed to meet the demand for new builds. And it’s happening at a time when 300,000 workers are set to retire within the next decade.
And while immigration figures of 500,000 new residents per year aren’t causing a housing shortage, bringing new families to Canada is exacerbating the housing squeeze.
There is the expectation that immigration will bring new workers to supplement the labour force. But some say that there are not enough skilled construction workers moving to Canada to make a difference. The federal government offers programs aimed at encouraging skilled workers and trades workers to emigrate to Canada.
Canada’s modest population growth has not historically been enough to grow our labour force and our economy.
By 2030, nine million boomers will have reached retirement age (65).
As the number of retiring workers climbs during the next 10 years, it would seem to make sense to welcome skilled immigrants and workers in the medical field.
Experts are the first to admit that they saw it coming.
Fewer home starts were just one sign.
An aging work force was another sign.
The devaluing of trades workers, which began decades ago when education priorities shifted to academics and sciences was another sign.
Opting for a trade was considered by many to be a step down in Ontario, while in Eastern Europe, trade apprenticeships and related expertise were highly valued. Canada lags behind other countries when it comes to apprenticeship. It would made sense for more incentives for all trades training, from shop floor manufacturing jobs, to electricians, plumbers, car mechanics, contractors, builders and other construction categories.
One must also remember that contrary to most white-collar jobs, being a contractor or entrepreneur in the skills trades is taking on considerable risk and liability.
Now, we find ourselves short of housing and of course, affordable housing.
We are short of skilled workers, who may need two to five years to be trained. Even if Canada ramps up a push for trades programs, we still need skilled immigrant labour to have any chance of meeting the shortfall of workers.
One has to wonder at governments who see what’s coming down the pipe and cannot react nimbly enough to choose another path.
As we welcome new citizens to Canada and place more value on trades workers, we will be forced to consider our values and priorities.
What matters to our society, which finds itself in a shortage of labour in so many areas, including health care.
Are we open to welcoming those who want to live and work in Canada and can we create ways to certify workers safely and quickly so that they can get to work?