Recently my local newspaper published a three part series highlighting the immediate and future labour shortages in our region. Our city, close to the city of Toronto has a very significant labour shortage, similar in many ways to the national labour shortage and it’s here to stay.
The labour shortage is not only as a result of the pandemic. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke of future labour shortages as far back as 2010. In one speech he mentioned that Canada would have a shortage of one million workers by the year 2025, he was right. In fact we are already there. The pandemic has of course made things worse but we have been on this journey for a long time. For many employers the answer has been to engage the Temporary Foreign Workers program. An effective but costly remedy, logistically challenging and not available to all sectors in all jurisdictions.
The newspaper series missed the opportunity to highlight one of the most obvious and most viable solutions, the inclusion of Canada’s largest minority group, the disabled.
When I worked with the late Jim Flaherty, arguably Canada’s best Finance Minister, he mentioned many times that the disabled had to be included In all employment opportunities, that the TFWP was a solution but the overarching solution must include the disabled. Working with Jim resulted in solutions, some of which changed the narrative, we miss his straightforward talk, we could use some of that today.
According to StatsCan the majority of our disabled citizens are not working. Those stats however are under representative since those without marketplace attachment are not included in unemployment numbers. Today in Canada there are 550,000 graduates from the past five years with disabilities, 270,000 of whom have post secondary diplomas and degrees. Although some grads have found work, this cohort of 550,000 have not worked a single day and therefore have no marketplace attachment. It is estimated therefore that the real unemployment rate for the disabled could be as high as 70% yet counterintuitively we have massive unemployment of one demographic while experiencing a massive labour shortage.
The disabled community are educated, skilled, motivated, innovative and ready to go.
It is time for the media to make this clear. A three part series on our labour shortage without any mention of the ridiculously high unemployment rate of the disabled serves no one at all.