Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Alberta's new labour strategy in action

Tyson Foods is the first company to take advantage of Alberta's new 10-year plan dubbed “Building and Educating Tomorrow's Workforce” to attract foreign workers. The international component of Alberta's strategy isn't getting much ink (actually, the entire thing seems to be getting overshadowed). It stresses recruitment, education and training, retention, and public information-sharing of labour force trends. Apparently it means relaxed requirements for immigrants seeking a short-term work visa . It was announced July 25th.
Addendum: Given that Tyson Foods is first up to plate to take advantage of Alberta's looser recruitment regulations, some people might be amused (?) to learn about Tyson Foods' controversial history.

Doug Cameron in today's Financial Times (also printed in The National Post):

Tyson Foods, the world's largest meat processor by sales, is recruiting workers from China and the Philippines in an effort to solve a labour shortage at its Canadian operation.
The US group is also targeting the Ukraine and El Salvador to fill gaps in its plants in the province of Alberta, where the boom in oil-sands exploration has driven economic growth to 6.6 per cent - twice the national average - and cut unemployment to 3.7 per cent.
The skills squeeze is causing energy groups such as Royal Dutch Shell to re-evaluate the economics of their oil-sands exploration, and led the province last week to announce a 10-year plan to attract more overseas workers.
Tyson is the first company to launch a recruitment drive under the plan, which would allow sponsored overseas workers to work in Canada for a year. The staff shortage has reduced productivity at its Alberta plants and worsened the problems caused by the strength of the Canadian dollar.


happyjuggler0 said...

From my vantage point here in the US, perhaps a campaign to attract Mexican labor might make more sense than scouring the rest of the globe and winding up with workers speaking a zillion different languages. I can assure you Alberta merely needs to snap its fingers and they'll get enough laborers just like that.

It is also worth noting that immigrant workers have a noted proclivity for sending money back to their family in the old country. With NAFTA the recipients of these remittances are more likely to spend their new money on Canadian products than a country on a continent far, far away would.

In fact, considering that many of these workers may well have worked in the US and that US and Canada aren't terribly different legally and culturally (no offense), not to mention linguistically, this might work out quite well.

true dough said...

Here's the best (however weak) reason I can come up with: Canadian policymakers are concentrating too much on the short-term in order to ensure a positive net benefit.

Assume unskilled Mexicans are willing and able to come.
The moment immigrants step foot in Canada they're paying taxes. Unlike with Mexicans, in the case of selective nationalities we're able to pay a low(er) wage and send them home before they qualify for health care, child support etc. In other words, if we pay unskilled immigrants less than their marginal revenue product of labour, a positive effect on the disposable income of Canadians will occur.
Second, when large firms take the initiative to hire unskilled workers overseas, we know that the immigrants are starting work as soon as they arrive (there's no match-making required on Canadian soil, and the social cost is minimal). But this seems so short-sighted. Sure, the average unskilled worker is responsible for their own cost of mobility, but what about turn-over? Is there really such a permanent queue of workers overseas? If not, is this arbitrage?

You make a great point about the rebound of remittances, but I wonder if this notion has been discarded in the case of low-wage Mexican earners. If Canada widens the door of the nation to allow more unskilled Mexican workers (and in compliance with Canadian-Mexican labour codes), could it not be argued that the costs exceed the benefit of remittances being spent on Canadian products? Perhaps that question ignores the long-run, too.

This all seems pretty lame though. Surely a permanent workforce can provide more benefits than they consume through public services. If not, perhaps it's time to rethink the system.

It's quite possible that I'm totally off the mark and should learn to write less.

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