The structural impact of aging on the labor market, on the competitiveness of the economy, labor shortages and the ability to grow should not be underestimated. And to mitigate the consequences, all solutions must be explored and possibly used.
The problem is that when we talk about labor shortages and population aging, which have a significant economic impact, the government responds with multiple commitments, resolutions, programs, reports and roundtables, but the observation, year after year, doesn’t change: the labor shortage is growing and the effects of aging are becoming more and more tangible.
Economically, these problems are structural and can cause permanent damage. These are topics that do not appeal to political discourse. They are complex, difficult to explain and some solutions, especially immigration, generally get stuck in all sorts of partisan clashes in the National Assembly that don’t move us forward.
Quebec’s Structural Problems
The solution of immigration to face the labor shortage and the aging of our population is not the only one, far from it. And it has its share of challenges. But despite the integration problems, it cannot simply be brushed aside. We need to work on the integration of immigrants for this solution to work.
Why am I writing this? Because Quebec is grappling with structural issues that could slow the economy and affect the necessary funding for the health system, our schools and our social services, as well as the care of our seniors.
Statistics Canada data speaks for itself:
- Quebec, one of the most populous provinces, has the highest percentage of people aged 65 and over at 20.6%;
- The proportion of over-65s will increase to nearly 26% by 2043 compared to 23.7% for the Canadian average;
- According to several scenarios examined, Quebec’s demographic weight in Canada will increase from 22.6% in 2018 to a range of 20.1% to 20.6% in 2043. Meanwhile, in Ontario, that share will drop from 38.6% to approximately 39.3%;
- And people retiring, 55-64 year olds, represent 23.2% of the working age population in Quebec, compared to 21.8% in the country as a whole.
According to Statistics Canada,
international migration is the main growth engine in Quebec in all scenarios, offsetting negative or decreasing natural increases during the projection (due to population aging) as well as losses in terms of interprovincial migration in all scenarios†
In other words, without immigration, population growth in Quebec will remain slower than elsewhere. And this fact puts a burden on our economy and our public finances.
In a text published last October, I explained how much Quebec was numerically lagging compared to Canada’s most populous provinces. I explained that:
- Since 2011, Alberta’s population had grown by 21.9%, British Columbia by 18.5%, and Ontario by 15.4%. Meanwhile, Quebec’s population growth rate was only 8.9%;
- And then, still since 2011, the number of 25-54 year olds, the beating heart of the workforce, had fallen by 2.2% in Quebec, while it had grown by 4.9% in Ontario and by 9.9%. in Alberta and British Columbia.
To reduce the labor shortage, we must focus on training. Labor Minister Jean Boulet is working hard to establish several programs to help transform companies and employees.
To mitigate the effects of population aging, we need to focus on improving productivity. And that calls for automation, hefty investment from companies and… more hands!
In a study published last November, the Institut du Québec wrote that Quebec needed to ensure that it reached the barriers to welcoming immigrants. Quebec must also catch up with the pandemic years.
Making up for these delays from target, the Institut du Québec wrote, is important to Quebec’s economy for two main reasons. On the one hand, this immigration is intended to meet the immediate needs of the labor market and, on the other hand, many people currently on Quebec soil and awaiting the granting of permanent residency status are discouraged by leaving Quebec. leave or lose their jobs if the delays don’t go away.
The Institute called for shorter immigration times and better recognition of foreign skills and experience. Quebec announced an agreement with the federal government on April 1 to accelerate the arrival of foreign workers. The Legault government also announced a few days ago that it would conduct 17 missions abroad to try to attract 3,000 workers to Quebec.
We need to end partisan debates about immigration and show a greater interest in the economy, society, demographics and the financing of our public services. Immigration is part of Quebec’s solution to maintain our standard of living and our model of society.