Alberta may appear to be the sponge absorbing every excess body from across Canada, but that province’s labour shortage and its effect that is rippling across the country is just the beginning wave of our labour problems.
For decades we have talked about the aging baby boomers and what happens as they retire. In the 1960’s and 1970’s when the boomers entered their most productive years we were awash in a labour surplus. Public policy of the day reflected that – generous EI, an expanded public service, substantial investment in university education to keep students, and their professors, busy and productive and, more to the point, out of the active labour market.
Those programs continue to work today as they were designed, trapping large groups of workers beyond the reach of a private sector now increasingly desperate for workers. The natural response in economics would be to switch from a reliance on labour to a reliance on other factors of production, like increased capital investment or technological innovation.
Regrettably, while failing to respond to the labour challenge, governments also maintain policies that limit these natural economic options. In this Commentary, based on remarks made before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry Trade and Technology, AIMS acting president Charles Cirtwill explains that we have to change the way we think about labour, capital, and technology.
As an example, Cirtwill says we need to remove the barriers for people to work, highlighting the plight of retirees who now can lose pension income for continuing to work, even part-time, after retirement.
He considers also the private investment that is driven out of the market place because of ready access to large amounts of government investment in private enterprise – both big and small.
In dismissing the idea of potential “priority industries” like transportation and manufacturing and whether growth in one would lead to growth in the other, Cirtwill says the key is to create an environment where all industires can flourish. He explains, “Let’s get more eggs and more chickens, and not worry about what comes first.”
To read the complete Commentary, click here.