The Yukon Government has just launched a 1 year pilot program aimed at expediting the entry of foreign workers into the Territory.  The Government has specifically promised to work with employers to help them secure foreign labour where they cannot find Canadians or permanent residents to fill the roles.

The program will aim to process requests for foreign workers within 4 to 6 weeks and will not require employers to follow the formal Labour Market Opinion process, usually a prerequisite to the hiring of foreigners.

The changes are particularly noteworthy as they come at the same time that the Federal Government has significantly tightened the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (the “TFWP”), the program governing the employment of foreign workers.  Citizenship and Immigration Canada has specifically introduced a series of regulatory changes, including but not limited to more stringent advertising requirements, the imposition of government fees, as well as greater responsibilities to demonstrate they have exhausted all avenues to find local labour before turning to foreign workers.

The changes to the TFWP came as a direct result of recent criticism of the program.  Specifically, labour groups across Canada have accused employers of abusing the program by using it to hire foreigners despite the fact that there is local labour to meet employers’ needs.

The Yukon Government’s pilot program serves as a reminder however of the fact that Canada continues to suffer from a chronic shortage of labour in various sectors of the economy.  The following facts help to explain the shortages:

  • For the first time in recorded history, there are just as many workers over the age of 40 as there are under the age of 40
  • The number of young workers replacing older workers is dropping dramatically.  In 1983 there were 3.7 replacement workers for every retiree, in 2003 there were 2.7 replacement workers for every retiree, while in 2006 there were only 1.9 Canadians aged 20-34 entering the workforce for every person aged 55-64 leaving it

While Canada’s economy is not at present operating at full capacity, there still remain significant skilled labour shortages.  This is because of chronic imbalances between employer needs and available local labour which predate the latest economic slowdown.  It is also important to keep in mind that while certain sectors of Canada’s economy have experienced retraction in recent years, others are growing at a rapid pace.  This means that Canada can and does face significant labour shortages even in an atmosphere of relatively slow growth.

The need for foreign labour will to some extent always trace Canada’s growth levels.  The fact remains however that Canada will need a significant and steady stream of foreign labour for years and decades to come.  Employers would accordingly be wise to co-ordinate their employment and immigration policies to ensure that they are able to satisfy the rules and regulations surrounding the hiring for foreign labour.  This will help to ensure that employers are in the best position to secure labour as needed.