Figures from Canadian experts show that the country will soon become victim to serious labour shortage unless drastic measures are taken. Statistics Canada warned Tuesday that Canada would have to rely heavily on immigration to plug the gaps left in, as Canada's aging workforce puts up their legs.
Says Statistics Canada: "An aging workforce is not unique to Canada. What distinguishes Canada is the relatively large size of the baby boom generation and, therefore, the potential rapid exit of these aging boomers from the labour market."
Accordingly, by 2011 almost one-fifth of baby boomers - those born between 1946 and 1964 - will be at least 61 years of age and pushing ever closer to retirement.
This problem is expected to be compounded by the fact there are fewer young people entering the labour force. In 2001, there was an average of 2.7 job force entrants aged 20 to 34 for every person over the age of 55. Twenty year ago, the ratio was 3.7 young entrants for every worker within sight of retirement.
According to Statistics Canada the potential for worker shortages is most pronounced in the health care, education and construction sectors.
In 2001, the average age of medical specialists was 45.6, while the average age for general practitioners was 45.2. Almost one-quarter of specialist was aged 55 and over, while 18 per cent of general practitioners were in that age bracket.
In the nursing profession, the average age of registered nurses has been going up rapidly because of few new entrants. In 1991, there were almost five nurses aged 20 to 34 for every nurse aged 55 and over. By 2001, that ratio was down to two young nurses for every one aged 55 or older.
Immigrants, says Statistic Canada, are expected to have a greater role slotted out for them. Those who landed in Canada during the 1990s, and who were in the labour force in 2001, accounted for almost 70 per cent of the total growth of the labour force over the decade.
"If current immigration rates continue, it is possible that immigration could account for virtually all labour force growth by 2011," says Statistics Canada.
In a recent article from Business in Vancouver, one expert urged government policymakers to develop a more aggressive work visa program to address growing labour shortages.
Other than immigration, other options include extending the "normal" retirement age, encouraging older workers to stay on the job, as well as tapping into underused labour pools such as aboriginals.
Experts also suggest the use of foreign visa holders as well as temporary visa holders.