Canada’s ag sec­tor loses 2.9 bil­lion due to labour short­ages

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - OPINION -

With the strong de­mand for Cana­dian food prod­ucts around the world, agricultur­e is poised for growth. How­ever, workforce chal­lenges af­fect the sec­tor’s abil­ity to meet pro­duc­tion goals, as well as their con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tional econ­omy.

The Labour Mar­ket Fore­cast to 2029 for the agricultur­al sec­tor was re­leased today by the Cana­dian Agricultur­al Hu­man Re­source Coun­cil (CAHRC). The data in­di­cated that farm­ers across Canada’s agricultur­e sec­tor re­ported $2.9 bil­lion in lost sales be­cause of un­filled va­can­cies – an in­crease from $1.5 bil­lion in 2014.

Forty-six per cent of farm­ers who re­ported va­can­cies de­layed or can­celled expansion plans and many re­ported ex­treme stress for them­selves and their work­ers.

Nearly 90% of pro­duc­ers with un­filled jobs iden­ti­fied ex­ces­sive stress and hours as a re­sult of not be­ing able to find the work­ers they re­quired.

How­ever, there are signs of im­prove­ment over the last four years. Most note­wor­thy is that to­tal job va­can­cies in agricultur­e have de­clined to 16,500 from 26,400, largely as a re­sult of the adop­tion of tech­nol­ogy, and an in­crease in the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional work­ers who fill jobs where no Cana­di­ans can be found.

Yet, va­cancy rates in agricultur­e are among the high­est of any sec­tor in Canada at 5.4% (com­pared to the na­tional av­er­age of just un­der 2.9%), they have de­creased from the 2014 rate of 7%.

“Labour short­ages in Cana­dian agricultur­e can only be ad­dressed by tak­ing de­ci­sive action,” states Por­tia Mac­Don­ald-De­whirst, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of CAHRC. “By work­ing to­gether, we can find mean­ing­ful, cre­ative so­lu­tions to in­crease the supply of labour and im­prove the skills of the sec­tor’s workforce for the con­tin­ued suc­cess and growth of agricultur­e across Canada.”

To ad­dress the labour is­sues iden­ti­fied in the re­search, CAHRC has de­vel­oped agricultur­e-spe­cific hu­man re­source (HR) tools de­signed to sup­port mod­ern farm oper­a­tions to man­age their workforce.

CAHRC also of­fers Agri Skills, on­line and in-per­son train­ing pro­grams, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an on­line re­source guide and tem­plates to ad­dress the HR needs of any busi­ness.

For agricultur­al or­ga­ni­za­tions there are cus­tom­ized labour is­sues brief­ings that ap­ply the new re­search to spe­cific com­modi­ties and prov­inces, to ex­plore the labour im­pli­ca­tions within their spe­cific area. For more in­for­ma­tion on th­ese and other CAHRC of­fer­ings visit

The re­search pro­vides clar­ity for agricultur­al em­ploy­ees, em­ploy­ers, ed­u­ca­tors and pol­i­cy­mak­ers about the state of the labour mar­ket and ways to min­i­mize short­ages.

A se­ries of 22 re­ports with labour mar­ket fore­casts for each prov­ince and major agricultur­al com­mod­ity will be re­leased in the com­ing weeks. The agricultur­al labour mar­ket re­search was val­i­dated through in­dus­try con­sul­ta­tions con­ducted Canada-wide in­volv­ing 1,900 farm busi­ness own­ers, em­ploy­ees and stake­holder or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The labour mar­ket fore­cast re­search was funded in part by the Gov­ern­ment of Canada’s Sec­toral Ini­tia­tives Pro­gram.

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