Friday, July 28, 2006

Labour shortages & the Keith Richards effect

Like other countries, Canada is receiving an inflow of evacuees from Lebanon. We also have massive labour shortages for skilled and unskilled workers in Western Canada. If we were to add to the picture an improved integration system and the proper infrastructure (too many jobs, yet no place to live?) the situation would appear to be opportunistic for many. Consider that there are 40,000 to 50,000 Canadians living in Lebanon.
Now here's my complaint: the media is too busy concentrating on negative protests and sob tails of labour shortages in Bootown, Alberta to concentrate on the labour solutions on the table (never mind the ones not on the table). Case in point: I challenge someone to find a single Canadian-based news item on the current labour negotiations between B.C. and Fijian authorities. Supposedly the two are discussing improvements in labour regulations to encourage worker mobility.
Global Insight (19 July 2006: sorry no link) has this to say:
As reported by Radio Australia today....

That's right. Australia. Good job, friends.

.... the Canadian province of British Columbia has expressed interest in hiring Fijian citizens in the local tourism industry to ease labour shortages. The employment opportunities, which resulted from Fiji's high commissioner's, Jesoni Vitusagavulu, visit to the region last June, includes positions as cooks, house maids, hotel and restaurant waiting staff, as well as farm work, including berry and fruit picking. The two countries are currently in talks negotiating conditions, which make it financially feasible for Fijian citizens to seek employment in Canada. This is especially viable, given that current opportunities are only up to three months, with maximum wages of US$10 an hour, which are hardly able to offset the high air fares between the two countries.Significance: Fiji's negotiations with Canada are an example of the current structural shift the country is undergoing.
As traditional sectors such as sugar and garments decline, the country is forced to seek alternative foreign exchange earners to sustain import capacity and external balances. Aside from tourism, workers' remittances have become an important source of such and are expected to gain increased importance.

And, according to the Pacific News Agency, “Australia, which is the main beneficiary of the Fijian brain drain and trade has shut its doors on its Pacific Island neighbour.”
B.C. isn't alone in wanting to attract immigrants to fill empty jobs. Alberta too has been thinking strategically about labour solutions, but it has yet to outline a definitive plan. Unless that one got by the media, too.
Maybe I should lay off the Canadian media. Perhaps it's not the case that they're too obsessed with juicy bits of drama to be informative. Perhaps we simply don't care enough about Fiji. Yeah, that's it. Back in May a letter to the editor of The Globe and Mail had this to say:

Keith Richards's fall from a tree at an exclusive resort in Fiji has, inadvertently, brought that country to the attention of the North American news media. It's curious what stories the media have ignored: the election in Fiji that begins this Saturday; last month's visit to Fiji by the Chinese Premier; the success of Fijian rugby players on the world stage.

Perhaps we'd be more introspective if Keith Richards were tossed from a Canadian pine by a Fijian immigrant...?


Candace said...

I just have to ask, True Dough, if you are currently trying to HIRE in either AB or BC. And if you have been talking to either Immigration Canada or HRSDC.

Because if not, then I gently suggest that you STFU as you do not know of what you speak.

Further, if you are not in a position to hire someone credited in a different province in either AB or BC and are not trying to deal with APEGGA or the BC equivalent, then *double* STFU.

Our problems are with bureaucracies.

So your challenge will likely go unchallenged (because it is pretty much irrelevant to the issue at hand, i.e. skilled immigrants), and the jobs will remain unfilled.


What is wrong with this picture?

true dough said...

Hi Candace,

I feel that you're preaching to the already converted. Perhaps I should have stressed what I considered to be obvious:
The current labour shortage in Canada should be among top priority by our politicians. This issue requires some major changes in how we shape our labour force and how we view immigration. I'm sure most informed Canadians unanimously agree that the labour shortage is a major problem.

My complaint is this: Since this is such an important issue, I would like to be kept informed. I want to hear about policy discussions from my own media. Not from the Australians. Rather, our press prefers to report the drama (this is what I mean by "sob stories"). If you don't agree, please let me know what newspaper you're reading, because I'd love to find one talking about Fijian immigration.

true dough said...

I thought I would post a (somewhat) more thoughtful response to Candace's comment.

You make a good point that bureaucracy is a problem. However, I can't help but think that the labour shortage has other problems now.
Economists are often criticized for only seeing the big picture (ie. "we need to restructure our immigration" "we need a whole new system"...), while the administrative hassle between Ottawa and (city of your choice) remains. I think we need to reassess both levels. Perhaps it's one of those "which comes first, the chicken or the egg" type of scenarios.

But I'm not willing to say, "this is a bureaucratic problem" and leave it at that. There are other hold-ups. Why are the unsklled Fijian workers not interested in filling jobs in B.C.? The Global Insight report would lead us to believe that it's not worth their while. The wage we're offering them fails to compensate them for the short period they're allowed to stay. Why are we not hearing more about Canada's international labour negotiations? Is it because they're failures? Is it because we're cheap on immigrant workers?

Do you really mean to tell me that bureaucracy is our only problem to this massive labour shortage, and that all else is "irrelevant"?