• Quebec’s labour shortage (and why YOU should care)

Quebec is in the midst of a ‘labour shortage’. There simply aren’t enough employees in Quebec to fill all available jobs, the demand for labour is unmet. Beyond chaotic airports, (1) this labour imbalance entails both good and bad things for employees. 

 

The good: Many employers are upping salaries and improving benefits to attract workers as finding employees becomes more difficult. Similarly, employees now find themselves in a good position to renegotiate their work contracts as employers have fewer potential replacements. 

The bad: Certain industries are deeply affected by this dwindling workforce. The hospitality sector was hardest hit as Covid-19 shut down businesses and exacerbated the effects of this shortage. Job vacancy rate in this sector stood at a worrying 11% (2). Employees are overworked and businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Additionally, other vital sectors like Quebec’s public health system face critical risk, units are understaffed and emergency rooms are closing province-wide. (3)

 

The causes and remedies  

Quebec’s labour shortage is no outlier, this shortage is years in the making and does not come as a surprise to experts. Such a phenomenon is occurring in most Canadian provinces and other nations. Let’s find out what causes most labour shortages, and what steps may remedy their undesired consequences.

Causes

Labour shortages mostly stem from one issue; changing demographics. As nations become more economically developed, they witness a decline in birthrates and a lengthening of life expectancy. Their populations tend to have larger numbers of old people and fewer numbers of young people. This natural shift in a country’s demographics reduces the percentage of its population actively in the workforce. Therefore, fewer workers have to meet the workload of what was once a larger workforce. Consequently, workers are overworked, employers struggle to find employees, and jobs go unfulfilled. In this case, we have ourselves a labour shortage.

Solutions

There are two straightforward solutions that tackle the source of this problem, expanding the workforce and attracting more workers. First, the government can expand the workforce in one of three ways; (1) It increases the number of young people in the workforce. This is usually done by lowering the legal minimum age to work, oddly Quebec has none (4). (2) It increases the number of old people in the workforce. Governments commonly push retirement age back a couple years, Canada is no exception. (5)  (3) It increases the number of immigrants in the workforce. By far the most simple solution as it does not force children or retirees to work, loosening immigration restrictions allows for an influx of workers that organically grow the workforce.   

The second solution that will aid this shortage relies on companies’ attractiveness. Low salaries amidst inflation, lack of work flexibility post-Covid, and overall poor working conditions all generated a growing sense of dissatisfaction in Quebec’s workplaces. (6) While demographics remains the main culprit

of this shortage, this discontent has pushed many workers out of Quebec’s workforce. Today’s blend of unmet labour demand and employee dissatisfaction created a phenomenon named ‘The Great Resignation’ (7) as many workers confidently resigned knowing employers are eager to hire. By offering better pay, benefits, and working conditions to their employees, more people are enticed to work. Hence, employers play a considerable role in this shortage as they determine Quebec’s labour market appeal.