A paper released Wednesday by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies says unemployment in Nova Scotia will disappear by 2015, and the paper’s principal author says New Brunswick will follow suit.

“If there is any difference between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on this it’s very minor,” Jim McNiven said.

“The economy is going to follow the workforce,” he said. “If the workforce in effect does not grow and we don’t do anything about the conditions around the economy, then the economy is not going to grow. It can’t.”

The Dalhousie University professor in the faculty of management identified the soon-to-retire baby-boomer generation and shortage of new young workers to replace them as the cause of his predicted future zero unemployment.

“What if you don’t have any more people to employ?” McNiven said. “Well, how can the economy go up?”

He offered a combination of three things as the solution to a full-employment induced economic halt: better immigration and child care policies to increase the population, encourage an increase in the productivity rate, and encourage workers to delay retirement.

But McNiven recognized these goals can be challenging, especially the last one.

“How do you go from Freedom 55 to Freedom 75?” he said.

But all this brings a silver lining to the current recession, the paper claimed, as it allows time to work out the labour shortage issue.

“What this means in a recession time is the unemployment rates will go up a bit, but not like they used to when there was a recession,” McNiven said. “Unless it’s really, really bad, which I don’t think it’s going to be, for the simple reason that the number of people available to work is going to start to decline.”

But Constantine Passaris, chair of New Brunswick’s Population Growth Secretariat advisory board doesn’t think it’s that simple.

“If you don’t have the level of education, if you don’t have the skill proficiency, you’re still going to be unemployed,” he said. “Even when the skilled unemployment vacancies are advertised over and over again.”

Although an unemployed person will eventually have no choice but to retrain to find work again, Passaris, who is also the University of New Brunswick’s chairman of economics, said it won’t be a quick transition.

“It won’t be instantaneous and won’t be automatic,” he said. “Because if you’ve got vacancies for a chief surgeon at the hospital and you’ve got an unemployed butcher, it’s kind of a gap there.”

This gap, Passaris said, is bigger than it used to be because of the changing structure of the economy.

“Because the new economy is all about human capital as a principal engine of economic growth rather than the resources of the old economy,” he said.

While it used to only take a few weeks to retrain someone in a different trade, many trades and occupations today require years of education and training.

Passaris likes the prospect of eliminating unemployment but said “we need a new model that will capitalize on our human resources,” to achieve this.

He pointed out three steps to achieving this goal: “We need to bring back government as a decision-maker on the economic landscape promoting employment,” he said.

He added the private sector must invest in training and education to prepare new workers for the new jobs, and “what we haven’t done is recognize the voluntary sector to the economy and bring them in as the third partner in terms of this long-term objective of creating full employment.”