If you live in New Brunswick, you have probably heard that we have a people problem – not only are we relatively old (43.1 years on average) but our population hasn’t really grown in a decade. An aging and stagnant population leads to a shrinking labour force, which means:
decreased economic activity as businesses struggle to fill vacancies, and
less tax revenue generated by wages, sales, and services.
According to a recent Statistics Canada report, by 2036 the Canadian labour force - persons aged 15 and older who are employed or unemployed - will increase from 19.7 to 22.9 million. But in the Atlantic region, mainly due to low birth and immigration rates, the labour force is expected to decrease. It also predicts that the participation rate – those working or looking for work – will decrease in the Atlantic: from an average of 65.9% - 60.4% in urban areas and from 58.4% - 53.2% in rural areas.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. The low participation rate will be in large part due to the fact that a larger portion of the population aged 15 and older have retired or are no longer working. Across Canada – including the Atlantic – the employment rate, along with wages, should increase – as employers struggle to find workers. It also means that underrepresented groups could play an increased role in the economy.
This is good news for Indigenous peoples in New Brunswick. Indigenous peoples in this province are much younger on average than their non-Indigenous counterparts, 35.5 years compared to 43.4 years. They are also growing fast. From 2006 - 2016 the number of people who identified as Indigenous increased 67.1%, compared to 0.3% for non-Indigenous people in the province. Statistics Canada predicts that from now until 2036, the percentage of visible minorities in the labour force could increase in Atlantic urban areas from 7% - 13%. But this increase will not be automatic – there needs to be action to ensure that people have the necessary training for available jobs, and that employers make efforts to engage Indigenous peoples and communities in their recruitment efforts.The Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) may be able to help employers with their workforce plans, please contact us if you’d like to hear how we can help.
If New Brunswick’s economy is going to thrive in the coming years, ensuring full inclusion of all people will be essential.
Tyler Foley is a Research Specialist at JEDI and will be a regular contributor to the JEDI blog. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Political Science at Carleton University. Prior to working with JEDI he spent several years working with International humanitarian and development organizations. He is from Oromocto, NB.