Canada’s ag sector loses 2.9 billion due to labour shortages

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council
June 26, 2019
By The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council
With the strong demand for Canadian food products around the world, agriculture is poised for growth. However, workforce challenges affect the sector’s ability to meet production goals, as well as their contribution to the national economy.

The Labour Market Forecast to 2029 for the agricultural sector was recently released by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC). The data indicated that farmers across Canada's agriculture sector reported $2.9 billion in lost sales because of unfilled vacancies – an increase from $1.5 billion in 2014.

Forty-six per cent of farmers who reported vacancies delayed or cancelled expansion plans and many reported extreme stress for themselves and their workers. Nearly 90 per cent of producers with unfilled jobs identified excessive stress and hours as a result of not being able to find the workers they required.

However, there are signs of improvement over the last four years. Most noteworthy is that total job vacancies in agriculture have declined to 16,500 from 26,400, largely as a result of the adoption of technology, and an increase in the number of international workers who fill jobs where no Canadians can be found. Yet, vacancy rates in agriculture are among the highest of any sector in Canada at 5.4 per cent (compared to the national average of just under 2.9 per cent), they have decreased from the 2014 rate of seven per cent.

“Labour shortages in Canadian agriculture can only be addressed by taking decisive action,” states Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of CAHRC. “By working together, we can find meaningful, creative solutions to increase the supply of labour and improve the skills of the sector’s workforce for the continued success and growth of agriculture across Canada.”

To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC has developed agriculture-specific human resource (HR) tools designed to support modern farm operations to manage their workforce. CAHRC also offers Agri Skills, online and in-person training programs, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business. For agricultural organizations there are customized labour issues briefings that apply the new research to specific commodities and provinces, to explore the labour implications within their specific area. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.

The research provides clarity for agricultural employees, employers, educators and policymakers about the state of the labour market and ways to minimize shortages. A series of 22 reports with labour market forecasts for each province and major agricultural commodity will be released in the coming weeks. The agricultural labour market research was validated through industry consultations conducted Canada-wide involving 1,900 farm business owners, employees and stakeholder organizations.

The labour market forecast research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.

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