Ottawa, ON – Chronic workforce shortages in Canada’s agricultural sector are expected to continue, with the number of unfilled jobs in the beef sector forecasted to more than quadruple over the next decade.
According to the Labour Market Information Study (LMIS), the labour gap is significant, with unfilled vacancies costing the beef industry $141 million is sales (farm gate cash receipts) in 2014.
The study, released today by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council (CAHRC) and Conference Board of Canada provides an overview of the current agricultural labour market and a 10-year projection that forecasts the supply and demand of labour to 2025. The LMIS was initiated in early 2014 and includes a 10-year national outlook along with a forecast for 10 different provinces and 11 commodity groups, including Canada’s beef cattle industry. A number of methods were used to conduct the study including an industry survey, interviews with agriculture producers and stakeholders, and numerous focus groups and webinars.
The study’s findings underscore the need for the Canadian Agricultural and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan, said Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) President Dan Darling. “A dedicated plan for Canadian agriculture is critical to ensure the industry has a sufficient workforce to take advantage of significant opportunities in the future,” he said. Proactively addressing workforce issues in agriculture, in terms of insufficient labour to fill jobs at packing plants and farms and the lost opportunity those chronic job vacancies create, are top priority for the CCA.
According to the study, over the next 10 years, the labour gap in the Canadian beef cattle industry could widen to 12,500 workers. The LMIS indicated this future increased labour gap could be partially caused by a spike in labour demand of as many as 2,500 workers. Export dependent and protein-based commodities, such as the Canadian beef cattle industry, are expected to have productivity growth around 2.5 per cent over the next 10 years. Additionally, trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are likely to generate more beef exports. These factors will create an increased demand for labour as the beef industry works to capture this growth. However, the study suggested that a declining labour supply in beef production is the largest contributor to the projected growing labour gap.
Retirement of beef cattle producers is the driving factor behind the decrease in labour supply; the study indicates that one-third of the current workforce will retire over the next decade. Immigration is likely to account for growing share of the future labour force in Canadian agriculture and beef production, but some provinces may benefit more than others due to regional economies and demographics.
CAHRC and the Conference Board of Canada are planning to release a 10-page report and 2-page fact sheet on labour supply and demand for beef in late April or early May.