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Workers without borders: Addressing SME labour shortages through immigration

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Small business owners across Canada are struggling to hire and retain workers, severely limiting their ability to remain productive and grow their businesses. It’s a complex issue—and clearly no single solution will remedy all of Canada’s labour market problems. 

CFIB has explored the growing issue of skills and labour shortages in Canada from a variety of angles, including in our report on youth employment. In this report, Workers without borders: Addressing SME labour shortages through immigration, we look at the role immigration can play in filling gaps in the labour market.

According to the report, 76% of business owners say it was somewhat difficult (33%) or very difficult (43%) to find workers in the past five years. Many say it was hard to find qualified applicants with the correct skills. The immigration system can help fill gaps in the labour market, either through economic migration via the permanent immigration system or by allowing business owners to hire foreign workers. 

However, hiring a foreign worker is an expensive and costly process for a small business. To make matters worse, the skills of new immigrants welcomed through the permanent immigration system often do not match the skills employers are seeking. Overall, despite the challenges with hiring and integration, small businesses had a positive experience employing foreign workers. 

CFIB is recommending that the federal government ensure that the immigration system can better meet the needs of small employers and the labour market, and work to reduce the red tape involved in hiring a foreign worker. The government can also play a role in providing small businesses with resources and information to help them integrate new immigrants in the workplace and the community.

Measures such as these will help small business owners attract the workers they need to maintain our economy’s competitive edge and help all Canadians prosper.