How to solve employment challenges for coming population boom

Statistics Canada projects the country will continue to grow in the coming decades, from 38.2 million in 2021 to 42.9 million to 52.5 million by 2043.Shironosov

Canada will welcome millions of newcomers over the next few decades to try to sustain economic growth in the face of an aging population, but experts warn our immigration system isn’t ready to handle the load.

Despite declining birth rates and an aging population threatening the long-term prospects of many major economies, Canada’s population grew almost twice as fast as other G7 countries between 2016 and 2021. Statistics Canada projects the country will continue to grow over the coming decades from 38.2 million in 2021 to 42.9 million to 52.5 million by 2043.

Given demographics, that growth can only be achieved through immigration, but experts say our existing process for integrating newcomers needs to be more effective.

“We’ve made a lot of effort to attract skilled immigrants, but when they come here, they don’t end up in the jobs we want them for or the jobs they want,” says Luciara Nardon, a professor at the Carleton University Sprott School of Business.

Ms Nardon – who recently co-authored a book called Making Sense of Immigration Work Integration – says the country spends significant resources attracting newcomers with certain skills, but often makes it difficult for them to capitalize on those skills.

Ms Nardon says she believes more pre-arrival support is needed to match those skills with employers. “[When] When you decide to hire someone, you need a plan to fit them into the market based on their job, skillset or specific needs, and as far as I know, that plan doesn’t exist.”

Resolving the challenge requires changes on many levels, adds Ms. Nardon. She says governments need to work with professional bodies tasked with certifying designations to help employers better understand how to evaluate experience and training from outside the country.

Professional associations are often unable to convert training and experience from abroad into local qualifications. Neither are employers who tend to favor candidates with Canadian institutions and brands on their resumes.

Iain Reeve, Associate Director of Immigration at the Conference Board of Canada, also worries that the country’s aging infrastructure is not adequately prepared for the expected population boom.

“Infrastructure is a big problem in general, both in larger cities and in smaller communities, and that includes housing, of course, but also things like road infrastructure, number of schools, utilities, public transport, hospitals and other health infrastructure,” he says. “It is important that these things are planned together – we cannot assume a fixed population figure while another part of the government designs a process to support the growth of our population.”

Mr. Reeve adds that infrastructure development cannot be confined to the country’s major cities, as newcomers are essential to ensure the economic growth of smaller communities.

“Immigrants don’t all want to live in big cities, they just often end up there because that’s where they have the best funding opportunities and opportunities,” he explains. “If we can direct them to the economic opportunities that exist in communities across Canada, and if we make sure there is enough support there for them, people will stay in those places.”

Currently, for practical reasons, few immigrants can settle in these smaller communities.

“Many of these communities don’t have the infrastructure to welcome newcomers,” says Alfred Lam, executive director of the Center for Immigrant & Community Services (CICS). “On the surface it might be a good solution to the housing problem, but then you also have to consider other needs like employment and health care, how can they find a GP who speaks their language?”

Mr. Lam says newcomers face many challenges that prevent them from contributing fully to Canada’s economy, and these issues are often intertwined. Solutions must take into account a number of factors that all work together.

“We can give someone an absolutely amazing resume writing workshop, but if that person goes home and they find themselves in a situation where there’s domestic violence or mental health issues or they live in an inappropriate apartment, that job doesn’t become very good well run far,” says Mr. Lam. “We have branch services, we have employment support, we have language training, all sorts of different parts, but we have to be flexible enough to put it together in the right way, at the right time, for the right person, and that’s the work we have ahead of us. “

Mr. Lam adds that Canada has many strengths when it comes to integrating newcomers into its economy, but stresses that far too many fall through the cracks of piecemeal solutions and one-off programs.

“We can’t look at problems in isolation,” he says. “Everything has to be done holistically – we need the whole system to work hand in hand – and that’s the area where we need to improve the most.”

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