Future Canadian Workers: More Educated and More Diversified

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Policy Briefs

Tomorrow’s Canadian Labor Force: Older, More Educated and Culturally Diversified

Despite the mainstream view suggesting that Canada faces an important future labor shortage which should be addressed by increasing immigration intake, a recent population projection shows that Canada’s labor force is expected to grow from 17.6 million persons in 2006 to approximately 21.5 million in 2031. Although projections show no sign of labor shortages, they show high risks of skills imbalance.

The study by demographers Alain Bélanger and Nicolas Bastien, published in the Population and Development Review, uses different projection scenarios in order to assess the impact of demographic drivers (fertility and immigration rate) of participation rates, and of barriers to economic integration of immigrants on future size and composition of labor force population and on overall participation rates.

Results show that by 2031, almost one third of the country's total labor force could be foreign-born, and almost all its future increase is expected to be fuelled by university graduates, while the less-educated labor force is projected to decline. Canada’s labor market is likely to simultaneously face an oversupply of university graduates and a shortage of low-skilled workers. Consequently, over-qualification of Canadian workers is likely to increase.

Moreover, due to the aging of the Canadian population, the overall labor force participation rate (ages 15+) is bound to decrease from 67% to between 64% and 60% depending on the projection scenarios. The analyses show that demographic drivers have an important impact on total labor force size but a minimal effect on the future labor force participation rate. As a result, the authors argue that increasing immigration cannot alleviate the decline of the overall participation rate (from 67% to 63%) due to population aging. Instead, a greater economic integration of immigrants would not only increase the size of the labor force, but would also significantly mitigate the declining overall participation rate.

The  study concludes that a better economic integration of immigrants and visible minorities is a key element for Canada’s future participation rate. Projection results show that increasing immigration would have no effect on the participation rate if immigrants were to remain with lower workforce participation rates. Rather than admitting more immigrants to Canada, the authors propose different solutions and examples to better integrate immigrants and visible minorities.

For more information, contact Alain Bélanger, Centre Urbanisation Culture Société de l’INRS 

For a summary of the research, please see Policy Brief #13: Future Canadian workers: more educated and more culturally diversified,

Communiqué :
Vers une main-d’œuvre plus scolarisée et multiculturelle
Une meilleure intégration des immigrants : une solution d’avenir

For more information: