Canada has long struggled to find enough workers for it’s nearly $ 200 billion agri-food industry that is why it is long overdue to have its new immigration pilot.
The country has struggled for decades to find enough workforce to support one of its most important industries. Each year, the agri-food industry yields $110 billion in domestic sales plus an extra $65 billion in export sales. The Agri industry supports 1 out of 8 jobs in Canada. But talent shortages have stunted the agri-food’s potential for economic growth.
A 2014 study found that 25,000 agri-food jobs were left unfilled which resulted in a loss of economic output of $1.5 billion.
The agri-food industry has become increasingly dependent on temporary foreign workers (TFWs), owing to the talent shortages.
Temporary visa holders in the agri-food sector previously accounted for 1 in every 20 workers. They are now numbering 1 in every 10 workers. In the coming years, they are predicted to account for 1 in every 5 workers.
Need for Hiring Foreign Workers
The main reason for this is that many Canadians do not want to work in the agri-food sector.
The work itself can be physically challenging, and worker shortages often require overtime.
Worksites are often remote, which makes the commute fairly time-consuming. The job is often seasonal in nature, so Canadian Workers search for more reliable employment sources.
Pay within certain occupations is competitive in the agri-food industry, but there is only so much more than the industry can pay its workers. The reason for this is if it hikes wages to attract more Canadian workers, it would have to pass the costs on to consumers, who are unlikely to pay significantly higher prices.
Canada, apart from other developed countries such as the USA, the UK and Australia faces these challenges and have relied for a long time on Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) to employ their agri-food industries.
In addition, one must understand that hiring TFWs is uncomfortable for the Canadian agri-food industry. Employers have to submit government paperwork each year to justify why they need to hire TFWs, which is time-consuming, expensive and also uncertain. Uncertainties include whether your application to hire TFWs will be approved by the government and whether TFWs can arrive in time to support your operational requirements.
Hiring Canadian employees will be much more convenient and less costly for the agri-food industry, but relying on them to meet the needs of the sector has proved difficult for the above reasons.
The Agri-Food Immigration Pilot Program
Under the pilot, Canada will admit up to 2,750 immigrants per year over the next three years, plus their family members. Even if Canada welcomes many immigrants over the next three years, it won't be enough to meet the needs of the industry. We must remember the retirement of millions of Canadians over the coming decade that will affect every industry, including agri-food.
Nevertheless, the pilot's launch is a good start. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have prioritized occupations in the production of meat, animals, greenhouse, nursery, floriculture, and mushroom after consultations with the industry.
Canada hopes to raise domestic sales of the industry to $140 billion, and exports to $85 billion by 2025. The Agri-Food Immigration Pilot will potentially help Canada achieve those goals.