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Durham's changing workforce

August 24, 2011
By Geoff Zochodne/The Oshawa Express
Twenty years from now, two of the following three will be true of the labour force:
It will be older. It will be more diverse. It will be based on the second moon of Jupiter.
The first two are accurate, states a recent report from Statistics Canada. The third is a flight of fancy.
StatsCan’s report, titled “Projected trends to 2031 for the Canadian labour force,” outlines a future workforce that contains more workers over the age of 55 and who were born outside Canada.
Overall, the labour force will increase by at least 20 million additional workers. And, according to StatsCan, nearly one in four of those workers will be over 55. By 2031 one in three members of the labour force would be foreign-born as well.
This forthcoming trend will not escape Durham Region either. A general demographics report done by the Toronto Region Research Alliance (TRRA), “a public-private partnership supported by the governments of Ontario and Canada, and a wide range of regional stakeholders from the private sector, universities, colleges, and research hospitals,” says similar things for the local scene.
In the report, the Oshawa Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), which includes Clarington and Whitby, is expected to grow both older and more diverse in the near future.
By 2015, more than one-third of the Oshawa CMA’s population would be over 55 and a fourth would be immigrants.
An aging population and workforce is not a bad thing, says Jim Freeman, president of the Durham Region Labour Council; if you prepare ahead of time. What Freeman would like to see is an increased Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), which would entice older workers to retire comfortably while opening up jobs to a younger generation as well.
“The Canada Pension Plan as it stands is not enough to keep seniors out of poverty,” says Freeman. “If you actually make it affordable for people to retire they would.”
He also thinks that the jobs of the future are green ones and that the government should be investing in new technology for skilled workers.
“The factories are already there and they’re sitting there empty,” he states.
As for an increased amount of immigrants living and working in Durham Region, Freeman is concerned they are not being given the chance to become Canadian citizens and instead wind up being rented workers.
“They aren’t given the same rights as other Canadian workers,” he says. “They’re bringing them in and then sending them home.”
Deficit-cutting may be the hot-button issue in Ottawa right now, continues Freeman, but he asks why the government is cutting jobs that could be used for the same purpose.
“The smartest way to get out of the deficit is create jobs and you don’t do that by laying people off,” he explains.
Aubrey Andrews, a manager for diversity and immigration for Durham Region Social Services, says that the growing immigrant population will be part of the reason why Durham will top over a million residents by 2031.
“A fair bit of that growth can be attributed to immigrants,” she says, adding that between 2001 and 2006, 34 per cent of all growth in the region came from immigrants; which is being incorporated into the local economy.
“If you’re in business, you’re in the business of serving a diverse population,” Andrews explains. “We anticipate population shifting.”
Durham Region is not a first-stop population for immigrant families, she adds.
“Durham is traditionally a site of secondary migration.”
But enticing foreign-born workers here can do things for the region, like opening up foreign markets and diversify and bolster creativity among the work force, maintains Andrews.
“I think that immigration is an opportunity, and it’s an opportunity to live in a place like Durham Region.”

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