Montreal, July 26, 2018 – Issues surrounding the shortage of labour have often been in the news in Quebec of late. Today, a new study from the Montreal Economic Institute shines a light on the “disappearance” of Quebec’s youth.
Indeed, between 1981 and 2017, Quebec “lost” nearly 230,000 people below the age of 45, according to Statistics Canada. The decrease is 98,000 for youths below the age of 15, a 7% drop, and 132,000 individuals aged 15 to 44, or 4% of this part of the population. “During this same period, Ontario saw its population of youths below the age of 15 increase by 17%, and its number of 15- to 44-year-olds jump by 32%,” observes Marcel Boyer, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the MEI and the author of the publication.
“Such a drop has significant long-term effects on the availability of labour, and explains a good part of the challenges we are facing now in this regard,” says Marcel Boyer. “This period in the history of Quebec represents a real demographic decline.”
Quebec has experienced a slight rebound in recent years, “recovering” 118,000 people below the age of 45 between 2010 and 2017. The population below the age of 15 climbed by 6.5% (+79,600), whereas the number aged 15 to 44 increased slightly, by 1.2% (+38,400). In the rest of Canada, the population in these age brackets increased by 4% and 5.5% respectively.
“This rebound must be put in perspective. For one thing, the demographic growth of 15- to 44-year-olds remains anemic compared to the other Canadian provinces; for another, Quebec experienced an upturn between 1986 and 1993, but it proved to be ephemeral,” observes Mr. Boyer.
The factors that explain this major demographic challenge are complex: Quebec experienced positive net international migration during this 35-year period, although far less than Ontario; but the province’s net interprovincial migration is systematically negative. “This indicates that Quebec’s capacity to attract is relatively weak,” notes the researcher.
Economic factors like job creation, growth prospects, labour market flexibility, and more generally, the opportunity for personal and professional development are of prime importance in encouraging demographic growth, especially in terms of net migration. On several of these metrics, Quebec is lagging compared to the other provinces. Among other things, only 18.3% of full-time jobs created in Canada over the past 35 years were created in Quebec, and the gap in terms of real GDP per capita with the rest of Canada has grown by 85% during the same period,” adds Marcel Boyer.
According to the MEI study, the most promising avenue for making the labour market more dynamic is greater openness to competition and to the private sector within the context of truly wealth-creating policies. “An economy that is too protected, for example by placing too much emphasis on grandfathering and seniority, necessarily becomes more sclerotic and less welcoming,” concludes the author.
The Viewpoint entitled “Labour Shortage: The ‘Disappearance’ of Quebec’s Youth” was prepared by Marcel Boyer, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.
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