Ag Sector’s Reliance On Temporary Foreign Workers To Fill Labour Shortages Is Growing

on December 26 | in Ag News | by | with No Comments

From a news release

Canada’s agriculture sector faces a persistent lack of sufficient workers with the right skills and in the right places. Labour shortages have doubled over the last decade and are projected to double again to 113,800 positions before 2025, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report.

This report relies on research findings from a three-year agriculture labour market research project conducted by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) in collaboration with the Conference Board.

“The agriculture sector is having difficulty recruiting and retaining domestic workers. As labour shortages have expanded, the sector has increasingly turned to temporary foreign workers to fill the labour gap,” said Michael Burt, Director, Industrial Economic Trends, The Conference Board of Canada. “Finding solutions to the labour shortages in the years to come is critical for the future growth of the sector.”

Highlights

  • Labour shortages within Canada’s agriculture sector have doubled over the past decade and are expected to double again by 2025.
  • At its seasonal peak, the sector needs about 100,000 more workers than at seasonal lows.
  • Three-quarters of the sector’s labour gap has been filled by temporary foreign workers.
    The report, Sowing the Seeds of Growth: Temporary Foreign Workers in Agriculture, examines why temporary foreign workers (TFWs) play such an important role in the agriculture sector’s workforce. It finds that the industry faces unique recruitment and retention challenges that are contributing to its growing labour shortages. These challenges include an aging workforce, the rural location of many operations, and negative perceptions about working in the sector.

    The most prominent challenge is the large seasonal fluctuations in employment. At its seasonal peak, the agriculture sector needs about 100,000 more workers than at its seasonal lows, which represents a 30 per cent fluctuation. The average difference between the seasonal peak and low in employment for all other sectors is just 4 per cent. These seasonal fluctuations are why more than three quarters of agricultural TFWs arrive as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

    One potential solution may be re-evaluating the effectiveness of Canada’s immigration programs so that they better meet the needs of the agriculture sector. With federal immigration policies geared toward attracting high-skilled workers, they offer few pathways for permanent residency for lower-skilled workers, even though agriculture has a critical need for them. A path toward permanent residency for migrant workers, who are filling a permanent market need, would assist farm operators in finding a permanent solution to their labour challenges.

    This research was funded by The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC).

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