Is there Really a Labour Shortage?

Shawnee Love   •   March 21, 2024

Yes! Yes there is a labour shortage in Canada.

We knew it was coming. We could see it a generation away. Boomers (the last big boom of a generation) are retiring. An economist I listen to mentioned that currently 20% of the people in the workforce are retiring in the next 5 years and we only have enough workers on deck (Gen Z) to make up about 10%.

Moreover, even though we have a large contingent of Millennials (Gen Y) working away and those Gen Zers in the pipeline, you need at least 3 of them to replace every Boomer who departs. That isn’t an ageist criticism against the younger generations . Its just my observation that when someone with 35-40 years of progressive work experience leaves a job, someone with 5 years or less is not going to fill those boots alone.

Further, Gen Xers, who have been quietly working away and are 20-30 years into their careers now, are simply too small of a generation to fill the gaps.

The solutions we have available are:

  1. More immigrants. Can immigrants be the whole solution? I think more people is a great start, but it takes time to integrate immigrants into Canada’s many types of work environments. Many small and medium sized organizations do not have the resources to be good bosses or good places to work to folks who don’t already know the basics. Their onboarding and assimilation practices let alone training in communication and interpersonal and intercultural awareness are lacking.
  2. More technology. Will AI come to the rescue? As someone who has watched and read too many apocalyptic stories about robots taking over, I admit I have a healthy fear about the future of work if robots are too involved. Where’s the culture and the reasons people care about work if all the people are gone? At the same time, I am hopeful about technology and as an avid user of software (including AI) look to tech to minimize the tedium. If we can give the 80% to technology and save the interacting, relating, empathizing, and creating to people, I am all for that.
  3. More innovation. Can we come up with newer, better, and dare I say less expensive ways to do things. I think we can, but we have to make innovation part of our processes and practices.
  4. More diversity. Can we think of other ways to get the work done or other groups of people to engage in doing the work? The gig worker is a product of this openness to diversifying how work gets done. So is the practice of seeking employees from commonly underemployed groups (new Canadians, indigenous, retired workers (including those aging boomers, as well as veterans), people with different abilities, outsourced service providers, etc.). More diversity requires leaders better equipped with skills, knowledge and training as well as time to manage well and build teams.
  5. More internal development. Can you grow your people to be the future workers you need? This effort pays dividends when it works, and at the same time, the investment and long term nature create their own challenges if the jobs are open now.

One thing I know for sure about this labour shortage is it isn’t going away. Now is the time to plan for how you will find and attract people to your organization next year and 5 years into the future. If you want assistance, we are here to help.