In the latest episode of our podcast, GVPOD, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade President and CEO, Bridgitte Anderson, sat down with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. BC CEO, Queenie Choo, to discuss the labour shortage in the Greater Vancouver region and her perspective on the role newcomers to Canada could play in addressing the issue.
The role of immigrant labour
Newcomers to Canada have been a critical source of labour for generations, bolstering industries in desperate need of talent. This reliance on immigration to supplement the workforce continues today, Choo noted that, "According to 2016 census data, immigrants constituted roughly 23 per cent of the Canadian workforce. This percentage included newcomers who make up 35 per cent of the food manufacturing industry, 29 per cent of the transportation industry, and 30 per cent of the nursing and residential workforce." These sectors are crucial to the function of the province and have been disproportionately impacted by the labour shortage.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent pause in immigration, has hampered economic recovery. As Choo pointed out, "New immigrants play a major role to mitigate labour shortages due to aging populations, new skills needed, labour jobs, and COVID absenteeism." The absence of international newcomers in the past two years has left many of those roles unfilled.
The issues impacting our ability to attract newcomers to the region mirror those challenges that residents of Vancouver have faced for years. According to Choo, "Part of welcoming new people is to ensure that we have affordable housing and transportation for newcomers coming to the region. Thinking behind the scenes to create a welcoming community needs to be there. We need to understand who is coming and their perspective."
The pandemic also saw an increase in anti-Asian racism. As Choo noted, "This is everyone's responsibility, not just a community or a government. We all need to be responsible. We need to call it out when an incident occurs, and we need to make sure there is clear legislation for offenders. I would love to see more programs for victims and programs that help curb racism."
Standing together and taking meaningful action against racism while working with government and communities to address barriers for all barriers for immigrants continues to be a strong priority for the business community.
Harnessing immigration to mitigate labour shortages
The top five occupations invited to immigrate under our federal entry programs are software engineers/designers, information system analysts, computer programmers, financial auditors and accountants, and advertising and marketing professionals.
According to Choo, "While these are the jobs we tend to focus on, we are facing a shortage in the food and beverage industry, restaurant industry, hospitality industry, and nursing industry as well. I am hoping we would be able to recruit people for these industries as well to fulfill the shortage across the board."
Canada granted permanent residency to 401,000 individuals who were already residing in Canada in 2021, with a target of adding an additional 411,000 permanent residents in 2022. As governments increasingly rely on newcomers to Canada supplementing the existing labour force, ensuring that credentialing and support services are streamlined will be crucial in addressing the labour shortages we're facing.
Listen to the full conversation with Queenie and any of our past guests by subscribing to GVPOD wherever you get your podcasts or listening on our website.