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Canadian Chamber addresses labour shortages, working conditions and the care economy at House committee

Canadian Chamber addresses labour shortages, working conditions and the care economy at House committee

On March 3, 2022, the Canadian Chamber’s Senior Director, Workforce Strategies and Inclusive Growth, Leah Nord, appeared at the House...

On March 3, 2022, the Canadian Chamber’s Senior Director, Workforce Strategies and Inclusive Growth, Leah Nord, appeared at the House Standing Committee Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA).  In addressing the Committee’s study of labour shortages impacting the Canadian economy, Nord spoke about data gaps, lacking social infrastructure, employment challenges women have been facing as a result of COVID-19, and more.

Leah Nord’s opening statement:

Check against delivery.

Good afternoon Mister Chair, Vice Chairs, and committee members, and thank you for the opportunity to make an appearance here this afternoon. I am speaking today from Ottawa, the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples. I go by the pronouns she/her/elle and I am wearing [Insert description here].

I am speaking on behalf of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which is the voice of Canadian business. We represent 200,000 businesses across the country, across sectors and across sizes, including our network of 450 local chambers and boards of trade from coast to coast to coast.

I am the Canadian Chamber policy lead on workforce strategies and inclusive growth.  This includes our Council for Women’s Advocacy and BIPOC Leadership & Inclusion Council.

We are all aware of the labour shortage crisis in this country. There are currently an unprecedented one million job openings in Canada.   Vacancies in health care, construction, manufacturing, accommodation and food services, along with retail trade are currently leading the way, yet we have shortages across sectors, across communities and regions affecting every size of business.  Businesses, including small business, are citing labour shortages as one of their – and often their most significant – barrier to economic growth.

I can also tell you, for example, that between now and 2030 construction employment is expected to rise by 65,000 workers.  I can tell you that in the residential construction sector, that between now and 2030 ~620,000 workers are needed, and calculating retirements versus new entrants there is an expected gap / need of 40,000 people. I can tell you the age distribution of the construction workforce.  I can tell you how many women, Indigenous people and new Canadians work in the trades.  I can break these numbers down by jurisdiction.

I cannot, for example, do the same the childcare and early learning professions. How many are currently employed in Canada?  Where are they employed? How many more are needed in the coming years, especially in light of new federal investments? I cannot turn to a sector association, a professional association and employment table, I cannot look to Statistics Canada data.   

Therefore, our first, and overarching, recommendation is for labour market information, analysis and demand-side workforce planning for key professions / sectors in the care economy.  The federal government can – and should – play a leadership role in facilitating, convening and funding these efforts.

I referred to the Canadian Chamber’s Council for Women’s Advocacy (CWA) in my introduction.  It was established in January 2020 as part of our inclusive growth campaign, and currently consists of a 15-member executive table.  We were initially headed down a pathway of focus, as with so much else, all changed with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.

Through the 24 months of the pandemic we have tracked the disproportional affect the pandemic has had on women in the workforce.  Both as employers (women business owners and female entrepreneurs) and employees.  We have also differentiated between women in the care/exposed economy and those in the remote/WFH economy.  Although there are challenges, significant ones, for women in each, we have acknowledged that women in care/exposed economy have been particularly burdened, and that they are among the most marginalized.

Further we have underscored that childcare and early learning is an economic – not a women’s – issue. It is one of the three pillars under which was have made recommendations to the federal government. One of our recommendations in this pillar has been, and I quote:

Ensure there is an ample and diverse workforce of childcare providers across the country by enabling remote learning for potential childcare provider certification in rural areas, providing more money to increase access to early childhood education programs and facilitating labour mobility and certification recognition across domestic and international borders.

We have likened childcare and early learning to social infrastructure.  And just like ‘traditional’ infrastructure, for example a bridge or a road, it will not materialize without a labour force to build and maintain it.  We need an ample, diverse, qualified and motivated workforce throughout the care economy (and a dynamic ecosystem that supports it) in order to ensure an inclusive economy and the country’s necessary economic growth.

Thank you. I look forward to answering any questions.

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