Vancouver Island, as well as the rest of the province and country, have unfortunately reached a perfect storm when it comes to the ongoing labour shortage, according to Julie Scurr.
Scurr, president of the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce, said the huge skilled-labour shortage that was predicted 10 years ago in B.C. has come to pass as the baby-boomer generation is now retiring in large numbers.
“There are three times as many people retiring and leaving the workforce than are coming in right now,” she said.
“People these days are also having fewer children than the baby boomers, so there’s less people entering the work force.”
Canada’s unemployment rate was 4.9 per cent in July which is a record low, according to Statistics Canada.
Scurr said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the labour-shortage problem even more.
She said particularly hard hit by the pandemic is the hospitality industry which saw businesses shut down for extended periods of time over the last two and half years, forcing many of their employees to find other jobs, and now that the pandemic is apparently easing, many are not willing to come back.
“The public service is also killing for people,” Scurr said.
“There are simply not enough bodies to do all the jobs out there. Immigration is sometimes used to help fill the employment niches, but where will these workers live when they come here? There’s no places for them to live in during the ongoing housing crisis.”
As to when the situation will improve, Scurr said that’s the question economists would love to have answered.
“I expect this will be the way of the world for awhile,” she said.
“There’s no magic bullet to solve this problem. Businesses will have to be flexible and be able to pivot quickly to deal with these new realities in the workforce. Many will have to change their business practices and their business hours to deal with it.”
Scurr said business owners will likely also have to get more involved in the day-to-day operations and activities than they may have in the past.
She said employers will have to be more creative to attract and retain workers.
“It’s not just all about money anymore, and workers are also looking for such things as flexible work hours, the ability to work at home at times and better benefits,” Scurr said.
“The targets are always moving. The Millennial generation have higher expectations than the generations before them and expect to make a lot of money. As we move forward, they will not settle for less and that will likely cause inflation to increase even more as costs go up as a result.”