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Immigrants, automation unable to fill B.C.’s expected labour gap

Retirement wave to drive 1M job openings from now to 2031
Expected job openings in B.C. by region between 2021 and 2031. (B.C. government)

B.C. immigrants, temporary foreign workers and people changing careers to high-demand jobs are not expected to be enough to meet demand for labour in the next 10 years, as retirements outpace population growth.

That’s the conclusion of the latest labour market outlook report, released Monday by the B.C. government. Even with federal immigration expected to rise, and 346,000 new immigrant workers expected to arrive between 2021 and 2031, the forecast estimates there will be 83,000 unfilled positions.

That is a big jump from the 49,000 unfilled jobs estimated in the 2019 labour market outlook. The 2020 forecast was not released, due to uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts.

Those jobs will have to be replaced by automation or filled by unemployed people brought into the workforce, Advanced Education Minister Anne Kang and Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon say.

“That’s why our upcoming economic plan will put forward a generational commitment to attract, develop and retain talent to support the jobs of the future,” Kahlon said Feb. 7.

Of the more than one million job openings from now to 2031, 63 per cent are to replace people who are retiring or otherwise leaving the workforce permanently. The remaining 37 per cent are expected to be new jobs created by economic growth and recovery from the pandemic, which has heavily affected tourism and other industries. The outlook estimates that there are 175,000 job openings that have a “high chance” of being automated.

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The largest number of job openings are expected in health care, social assistance and education. They include early childhood education, as Canada moves to a subsidized daycare model, as well as child protection, counselling, community housing and food services.

Science and technology jobs expect 111,000 job openings during the decade, and another 85,000 are expected in skilled trades, from cooks and auto mechanics to construction workers and hair stylists. The B.C. government has continued to expand post-secondary training, including 500 new nursing spaces and 27,000 more apprenticeship and foundation training spaces in public and non-public institutions.

The province has created new online tools to help people find work and training opportunities, including a career transition tool, a career search tool and education resources for teachers and counsellors.


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