Ontario’s labour crunch is real, but blaming it solely on a lack of talent is misplaced. Take engineering, where workers are retiring in droves amidst surging demand. In 2020, only 24% of internationally-trained engineers in Ontario—3,570 applied that year—had their licensing requests approved.
For decades, occupational licensing requirements have proven onerous for newcomer professionals, many of whom must demonstrate local work experience as part of a requisite qualification procedure. Not anymore. If passed, Bill 27, introduced last month, will eject the Canadian experience requirement from the licensing process in non-healthcare sectors, effectively removing what a provincial press release calls “the number one barrier” facing immigrant professionals.
Indeed, critics have long charged that asking for Canadian experience—a euphemism for cultural fit or soft skills—smacks of unfairness. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, demanding Canadian experience in a job interview is discriminatory, barring exceptions.
Adwoa K. Buahene, CEO of TRIEC, welcomes the legislative move. Appearing before a committee at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on November 17, she said, “The proposed measures mean newcomer professionals would find jobs that match their training faster, reducing the wait time that produces lost productivity.”
Reversing that lost productivity means economic growth. If immigrants participated fully in the job market, Ontario would see up to CAD 20 billion in additional annual gross domestic product in the next five years, according to a 2021 Scotiabank estimate.
“This goes beyond just the economics, of course. It also allows immigrants to maintain professional dignity by working in their chosen fields,” Buahene said.
As the economy bounces back from the pandemic-induced slowdown, Ontario faces a labor shortage that is among the worst in the country, with 62% of small and medium-sized firms reporting difficulties in hiring.
Further exacerbating the problem: Canada is aging fast and its birth rates remain low. That has led the government to double down on its pro-immigration strategy to propel economic growth. Already in Toronto, immigrants make up half the workforce. Nationwide, immigration is expected to drive net labour force growth through to 2040.
Alongside other partner groups, TRIEC recommended that the province consider extending the removal of Canadian experience to medical professions. At 2.7 practicing doctors per 1,000 people, Canada’s doctor per capita trails its European counterparts, according to a 2020 analysis. Further, with a high turnover rate and growing demand in sectors like eldercare, resources will likely be stretched thin without intervention, making it increasingly necessary to integrate internationally-trained medical professionals into the workforce.
With Canada’s drive to boost immigration, the passing of Bill 27 will create a smoother path to meaningful employment for internationally-trained newcomers, who arrive in Ontario in the thousands every year.
TRIEC remains committed to championing the tremendous skills and knowledge immigrants bring. As well, we will continue our work with employer partners to make sure skilled professionals land jobs that match their trainings. When they prosper, so too will Ontario.
For additional information, please contact:
Owen Guo, Manager, Content and Media Relations