Quebec’s manufacturing machine still needs more than 21,300 cogs to operate at full capacity. Despite a slight lull in the second quarter, the labor shortage continues to affect almost all companies in the sector and represents the main obstacle to its growth.
The most recent data from Statistics Canada indicates that there were still 21,325 positions to fill in the second quarter of the year. The figure represents a modest improvement compared to the start of 2023, when there was a shortage of 22,695 workers, but above all it constitutes a marked improvement compared to the same period in 2022, when it was necessary to find 32,000 people to fill all the available positions. .
“In 2020-2021, international demand was very strong and we were unable to meet it, so we were looking to hire and there were many more vacant positions that we were unable to fill,” explains Véronique Proulx, President and CEO of Manufacturers and Exporters of Quebec (MEQ).
“Then, the largest companies tell me things are better: they can offer better salary conditions which attract workers. On the other hand, there are only 1,000 manufacturing companies with more than 100 employees among the 13,000 in Quebec. For SMEs, recruitment remains difficult. »
According to the MEQ, an association with 1,100 members, four areas are particularly affected: food, metallurgy, and the manufacturing of machinery and transport equipment. The average entry wage in the manufacturing sector is $27 per hour, the association says.
Three regions account for almost half of the positions to be filled in Quebec. In Montreal, Montérégie and Chaudière-Appalaches alone, there is a shortage of 11,330 workers to meet all the needs of the industry.
However, it is in Lanaudière, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Centre-du-Québec, Côte-Nord and Nord-du-Québec where the vacancy rate is most painfully felt. It is in these regions , further away, that the number of positions to be filled turns out to be the largest in relation to the total number of jobs within manufacturing companies.
According to a survey conducted by the MEQ among its members, 98% of companies say they have positions to fill. The cost of this lack of labor amounted to seven billion dollars for the Quebec economy in the fall of 2022. For comparison, the manufacturing sector represents 86.8% of Quebec exports and generated nearly 213 billion dollars in 2021.
To relieve the shortage, the MEQ is asking Quebec to significantly increase its immigration threshold. To meet the labor need, we would need to admit 90,000 permanent immigrants per year by 2027.
“In 2020, the manufacturing sector hired 4,000 temporary foreign workers. Today, we have reached more than 16,000: the relaxations negotiated with the governments have made it possible to partly relieve the shortage,” underlines Véronique Proulx.
“However, this once again favors large companies, because the process of bringing in a temporary foreign worker costs between $12,000 and $15,000. […] This doubly penalizes SMEs which often do not have the means to attract temporary foreign labor. »
Other ways to fill
Permanent immigration would make it possible to respond more sustainably to labor issues, believes the MEQ. To encourage French-speaking and regionalized immigration, the MEQ proposes in particular to “expand accessibility to francization before arrival in Quebec” and to allow “upstream” francization of the spouses of welcomed workers.
The MEQ also suggests offering a financial incentive to immigrants who put down roots outside major centers, including a measure inspired by the tax credit that can provide up to $3,000 per year to those who choose to live in the region.
The difficult economic context, where many see a recession looming on the horizon, will also make it possible to alleviate the current shortage of personnel, according to the CEO of the MEQ. “I expect it to decrease a little given the lower international demand,” concludes Véronique Proulx.
“Companies are concerned and are postponing investment projects and are being more careful. However, we are far from layoffs: companies have worked so hard to attract talent, they are not ready to part with it despite the announced economic slowdown. »