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Jobs and Immigration

……………………………………Let’s Talk Jobs


Here in Canada there should be more of a focus on jobs. What the people want is more jobs and more better jobs. Going forward there are several ways the labour market could be improved with better government policy and better government management. These mechanisms are:


-         Strategic training to meet the proverbial labour shortages that business always complains about. A start would be to get the numbers right: to figure out the growth, retirement and training stream size.

-         A good jobs boom that’s coming from baby boom retirement of skilled and professional workers that can be captured if we get training right.

-         A good jobs boom that’s coming from baby boom retirement of unionized workers at larger corporations and government.

-         More appropriately immigration; the right number at the right time at the right place.

-         Training the next generation of Canadians instead of relying on skilled and professional immigrants.

-         Enhancing internal migration from the regions by tighter labour markets in destination cities.

-         A tighter labour market would atrophy the worst employers; this is the traditional Knowledge Economy where people move up the ladder to high tech jobs at the cost of worst jobs. (This is how Japan industrialized.)

-         A better economy would raise the defacto market minimum wage significantly; to Alberta levels which reports are is $12 an hour, could be.

-         A shrinking labour force due to the aging population will reduce unemployment in the depressed regions but help the remaining workers there. The shrinking labour force is a solution, not a problem. 

-         And of course economic growth going forward, something Canadians have embraced with the almost inflationless growth since 1990.


The list of benefits from tight labour markets and better employment is also comprehensive. These are:


-Better employer relations with tighter labour markets. High unemployment encourages abusive employers. In particular tight employment encourages the sought after on-the-job training.

-Testing for people who are hidden unemployed, nominally 9% of adults nationally as of 2009. This is overlooked by Statistics Canada. Alberta’s higher employment in 2008 indicates that is how slack the labour force is and this should be tested for in other bailiwicks.

-Significantly higher government revenues would come from getting more people working, dropping back into the labour force, that 9%. This should be the main mechanism to balance government budgets - rather than more taxes and social program cuts.

-Productivity improvements from labour pressure, this would mainly be at the bottom where productivity is not always good.

-More retired baby boomers working, less involuntary part-time employment, and less anemic self-employment.

-Getting underemployed skilled and professionals, including recent immigrants, into the jobs they need and deserve. We all know people that have not been able to get a job in their area of training, it’s the modern situation. This is particularly a problem for young people facing a career choice and costly training.

-Fewer low wage jobs, which are significantly net subsidized in the Canadian nanny state.

-Slower economic growth in the mega-cites from tight labour markets. The main cities are already too big and expensive. This is environmentally sound policy as well.

-Tighter labour markets in the main cities of Canada would encourage businesses to relocate to more economical regions.

-Recession resistant labour markets and foreign competition and foreign disaster resistant labour markets. A high level of labour force participation is a prime social mechanism for fighting recessions as better off people will drop out of the labour market in tough times and leave job openings for the bread winners.


There is a lot of attitude around that Canada is fine, we’re a rich country and the economy is just the economy which little can be done about. Meanwhile the “real” unemployment is high, low wages are pervasive, it seems most people are really insecurely employed and half the country doesn’t have a proper pension plan. People turn a discrete blind eye to all this, even as it affects friends and family. So, yes, these problems affect just about everyone in the country and jobs are as volatile politically as taxes. Taken together, the mechanisms listed above are enough for the government to do some contouring of the labour force and the labour markets and without massive spending. So we can work on more jobs and more better jobs going forward with thoughtful programs. We can work on a complex of ideas, which empirical economists are not particularly good at analyzing: moving people around, putting pressure on businesses and getting more people out of their house and into the labour force. The opportunity is huge.