Last year, businesses in Quebec’s manufacturing sector left $18 billion on the table because they didn’t have enough workers to deliver goods.
However, since the start of the election campaign, beyond theoretical debates about immigration limits, neither party has presented an economic vision that will have a significant impact on productivity. Because if immigration is part of the solution, it won’t solve all the problems, and it certainly won’t happen by magic.
Talk to any business leader. The labor shortage is a crying and devastating issue that deserves better than vague promises. It also became a major obstacle to the creation of wealth and revenue for the state of Quebec. And this applies to all of us.
The manufacturing sector consists of 13,000 businesses in all parts of Quebec that generate 13% of the gross domestic product and employ up to half a million Quebecers. Salaries are above average. In some regions, these companies are important economic lungs.
It is therefore time for the parties involved in this campaign to explain how they will contribute to overcoming two key challenges: access to the quantity and quality of talent and accelerating the integration of new technologies.
All talents are important!
The myth of cheap labor is over. 31,000 jobs currently available in the manufacturing sector require skills. The most difficult positions are laborers, operators, welders, machinists, laborers, assemblers, technicians, mechanics and engineers. According to a recent survey, 50% of job postings offer wages between $20 and $29 an hour.
Labor shortages directly impact the region’s economic spinoffs, but also delay investment and disrupt supply chains.
So yes, immigration is the solution, but thresholds are only part of the equation. Who will answer the following questions?
- How can we promote the retention of temporary immigrants who work in the regions and who have the necessary skills?
- What is the plan in the region to ensure sufficient accommodation opportunities for both temporary and permanent foreign workers (housing, transport, kindergartens, schools, community organizations)?
Invest in technology
Quebec still lags significantly behind OECD countries in terms of productivity.
In order to stand out, local companies adopted an industrial model based on small volumes. Consequently, this presents an additional challenge to the automation and robotization of our factories. The next government will need to do more to support our manufacturing SMEs to accelerate the integration of new technologies.
Who has an explanation plan:
- How much money will be invested in digitalization of companies?
- What support will be given to companies in their modernization?
Let’s talk real business!
Immigration caps fuel a false debate and distract from the substantive debate about each side’s economic vision. Of course, issues of identity and language are important, but isn’t successful acceptance at work the best vector for integration?
In our latest survey, more than 15% of companies are considering relocating or relocating production outside of Quebec. Is this not a big enough issue to seriously consider?
With less than two weeks until the election, we ask what concrete measures are in place to maintain and increase manufacturing production levels in Quebec.
It is not enough to be proud of our manufacturing companies. This pride should translate into concrete actions.
Véronique Proulx, President and CEO, Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters