Alberta should target skilled workers only, states new report

A skilled worker shortage in the Canadian province of Alberta could cost its economy in the region of CDN$33 billion in the next four years, a new report shows.

Mountain Range in Alberta, Canada


Yet, in spite of looming labour shortages in the province, the authors of the new report believe that one of the ways to best deal with the problem would be to reduce the number of low- or semi-skilled immigrants arriving in the province.

The report, conducted by the University of Alberta’s Institute for Public Economics, states that the provincial government should start to phase out low-skilled immigration in favour of concentrating on high skilled workers – especially those arriving on a temporary basis.

According to the Institute’s findings, the Alberta Provincial Nominee Programme, which originally sought only skilled immigrants working in occupations deemed to be particularly in demand in the province, has diversified in recent years, and is increasingly seeking to nominate lower skilled workers from overseas. Individuals who are nominated by the province, along with their families, can apply for a permanent resident visa through the federal government.

The report says the Alberta government should look to phase out, over a three to five year period, the eligibility of lower-skilled workers through its nominee programme. It also called for an increase in the number of temporary skilled workers being bought into the province as opposed to low skilled temporary arrivals.

“The federal temporary foreign worker programme should be returned to its original purpose of meeting temporary shortfalls for skilled workers,” the report stated.

“The view of the authors is that you need to be getting people to fill the skilled positions and mature workers, disabled workers and aboriginal workers would be able to begin to fill in some of those occupations that are less skilled or semi-skilled,” said Bob Ascah, the Institute’s director.

However, some Albertan business organisatons and employers have reacted angrily to the report’s suggestions, with Richard Truscott, the Alberta director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, saying that the recommendation ignores the reality of the provincial labour market.

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“Employers need workers at all skill levels and are desperate to find those individuals and the temporary foreign worker programme has been one of the few ways they have been able to meet their needs,” he said. “For whatever reason, Canadians don’t seem to want certain jobs in the economy and employers who need low-skilled and semi-skilled workers are looking high and low and have not been able to find those people.”

The Albertan government has said it will review the report, but has already expressed concern about the recommendation to phase out lower-skilled workers in its provincial nominee programme.