This week, the Yukon government moved to ease the labour shortage.
It’s welcome news.
Since 2005, the territorial economy has been operating at or beyond its capacity.
Unemployment has been hovering around five per cent — that’s damn near full employment.
And that’s a two-edged sword for business.
It’s profitable, but also exhausting.
Local restaurants, retailers, hotels and many other businesses have been fighting tooth and nail to staff their operations.
Labour costs have gone up, and supply of workers has been incredibly tight.
It hurts the bottom line.
Service suffers even as costs rise — and that hurts business.
Many owners have been shoring up their operations by manning the counters themselves. That takes time away from families.
Some storeowners have mused about closing outlets. Others have been cutting hours.
And, in desperation, some local businesses have gone overseas to recruit workers.
But the federal foreign worker process is hopelessly bureaucratic.
Often workers had to be sent home before Ottawa could process the paperwork they needed to stay in Canada. That has been a tremendous frustration for local store owners.
And if you wanted to hire a part-time worker from a foreign nation, you were out of luck — Ottawa wouldn’t even process your request.
Faced with a labour shortage, and throttled by the bureaucratic morass of Human Resources and Social Development Canada, businesses were approaching a breaking point.
The labour shortage topped the local business community’s list of concerns, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which recently toured the territory.
Federation reps suggested the territorial government was aware of the labour shortage, but following discussions with officials, they thought it had a long way to go before it was in a position to tackle the problem.
Clearly, the government was better prepared than it appeared.
On Thursday, Yukon Education Minister Patrick Rouble borrowed a page from a federation paper, Immigration and Small Business, Ideas to Better Respond to Canada’s Skills and Labour Shortage.
In that report, the federation recommended reducing red tape, specifically increasing the number of occupations that are exempt from labour market opinions.
Rouble has done that, eliminating the need for a federal labour market opinion for skilled workers.
As well, employees can now be nominated for permanent status by their employers.
And they don’t have to leave the country and reapply to temporary work visas.
These, and other changes should reduce paperwork and wait times, specifically in the retail and hospitality sector.
They were the hardest hit by the labour shortage.
Government spending has fueled the territory’s boom. That increased work was seriously taxing the business sector.
Rouble’s initiative should help business owners enjoy the economic prosperity. (RM)