A labor shortage should be positive news for young people entering the work force and older workers with experience. Wages should increase and finding a suitable job should be easier. However, this is not the case in Canada because the Conservative government, under the guidance of Stephen Harper, has allowed businesses to employ Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs), making it extremely difficult for new graduates, youth, and older Canadians to obtain entry-level positions or jobs in the construction and service industry.
Recently, after the CBC Go Public Blog reported on widespread abuses and informed Canadians of the negative impact on domestic workers, the government implemented a moratorium on the hiring of TFWs in the fast-food industry. Unfortunately, this lasted only a few weeks before being reinstated. During this time, the government introduced a few more restrictions, increased fees to hire TFWs but did little to address the impact of the TFW program on Canadians seeking employment.
The Conservative government has not been able to come up with a strategy to deal with high unemployment in many parts of the country and the imaginary labor shortage in other parts of the country. Instead the Harper government continues to ignore the real motivation behind the TFW program which is to keep wages artificially low by flooding the market with an endless supply of low-skilled workers from abroad.
Canada does not benefit from an increase in low-paid, unskilled temporary workers. Instead allowing large numbers of low-skilled foreigners to work in construction, retail, restaurants and fast food establishments makes it more challenging for Canadians to find work.
To solve high unemployment in the eastern part of the country and fill any labor shortages in the western provinces the government needs to set up a program that increases the mobility of unemployed workers towards job opportunities. Providing internal migration incentives or assistance would ease labor market shortages in areas with not enough available workers. The growth of the TFW program has impeded labor market adjustment and reduced opportunities for Canadians to move to areas of low unemployment in search of a better future. As long as it is cheaper to pay airfare and medical coverage, provide accommodation, cover visa and other fees for TFWs than relocation costs of Canadian citizens then large corporations will not be willing to hire and train Canadians. Additionally, if there is a mismatch between available jobs and the qualifications of domestic laborers then companies must be encouraged to invest in training Canadians before opening the gates to foreign workers.
Given the present state of high unemployment across the country, it is extremely hard to understand why the Harper government continues to subsidize big business by allowing them easy access to the TFW program instead of forcing these companies to invest in hiring and training our own citizens.