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Labour & Employment Policy

BC’s changing demographics and shifting employment opportunities present key challenges for employers, such as how to find enough skilled workers, how to adjust to a more diverse and aging workforce and how to comply with workplace regulations. The Council encourages rigorous analysis and proactive policies to address labour issues in advance of marketplace challenges.  The Council also promotes effective relationships between employers and employees by providing information to its members on important labour issues and advising government on policies that affect the workplace.

Statement: Business Council supports new minimum wage policy

“The Business Council supports the government’s decision today to implement a modest increase of the statutory minimum wage of $0.20 to $10.45 and to index future increases to the consumer price index as the Council has previously advocated,” said Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia.

“This brings British Columbia’s minimum wage policy in line with most other jurisdictions in Canada and provides a fair and predictable approach to future increases that businesses can plan around.

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Will Future Labour Shortages Imperil the BC Economy?

The critical role of human capital in today’s economy, the fact that many employers continue to report difficulties finding qualified personnel, and demographic forecasts pointing to a steadily aging population and slower labour force growth all raise questions about the future supply of skills.

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Critical Success Factors and Talent Risks for BC

The September issue of this newsletter reviewed the international, labour market and public policy contexts for talent mobility and development and briefly identified key success factors and risks for British Columbia in achieving its workforce development goals. In this month’s issue, we explore each of these areas and offer suggestions for ensuring an adequate labour supply and successful workforce development in BC.

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'Talentism,' Mobility and Migration: Implications for BC's Labour Market

This edition of Human Capital Law and Policy was guest authored by Kerry Jothen, CEO of Human Capital Strategies.

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Finlayson: The growing role of women in the workforce (Troy Media)

The growing role of women in the workforce arguably qualifies as the most consequential socio-economic development of the past fifty years. As more women have entered the formal labour market, the productive capacity of our economy has been augmented. Indeed, increased “labour input” – more people working – has been the principal factor pushing up gross domestic product (GDP) and household incomes in Canada. And women account for a large majority of this increase in “labour input.” A study done last year by the economics team at RBC estimated that the rise in female labour force participation since the early 1980s has boosted Canada’s GDP by more than $130 billion.

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Job Market Improving…But Employment Growth in BC Remains Soft

July’s revised labour force report from Statistics Canada shows that employment growth remains sub-par in the province. The total number of people working did not change in July. But this sideways result follows an increase of 6,700 jobs the previous month. The past two months have seen a decent gain in the aggregate number of people working in the province and extends the modest positive trend that has been in place for seven or eight months.

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Debate Over the Minimum Wage Heats Up

Proposals to increase the minimum wage have been gathering speed on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. In January, President Obama called on Congress to lift the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, an idea quickly rejected by Republican Party leaders. But America’s national government doesn’t hold a monopoly on labour standards in that country; state and local governments also play a role. Since 2011, more than a dozen U.S. states and several cities have increased the minimum wages in their jurisdictions. Earlier this year, Seattle adopted a $15.00 an hour minimum wage, the highest among all big American cities.

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Interprovincial migration is again adding to BC's population

In the first quarter of 2014, BC saw 1,300 more people move into the province from other parts of Canada than leave to settle in other provinces.  This marks the first time in nearly three years that BC has experienced positive net in-migration from other provinces.  The shift from a net loss to a net gain is a positive sign because changes in interprovincial migration are driven largely by working-aged people.  A net inflow means there will be more workers available in the BC labour market and also suggests job opportunities are becoming more plentiful – relative to other provinces and in particular Alberta – than was the case over the past couple of years. 

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Overqualified Workers and the BC Government’s “Skills for Jobs Blueprint”

Late last month the provincial government provided some details on its planned re-engineering of the public post-secondary education (PSE) and training system, which will see additional funding directed to expand capacity to educate/train young people in high-demand occupations – and, presumably, result in fewer dollars being available to fund programs in other parts of the PSE system. One of the key factors behind the revamp is a belief among policy-makers that the “supply” of and “demand” for skills are out of alignment in the current labour market.

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Alberta’s Demand for Workers is Affecting the Labour Market in BC

Within Canada there are no restrictions on labour mobility. People move freely between provinces to find employment, to retire, to attend school, or for other reasons. The past few years have seen mounting anecdotal evidence that strong demand for workers in Alberta is impacting the BC labour market by luring younger, often skilled workers from this province. Some employers in BC report they have been losing employees to our eastern neighbour. Looking ahead, this trend is likely to contribute to a tightening of the BC labour market as economic growth gradually accelerates.

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Women, Work and the Economy

In Canada and British Columbia, males and females are more or less equally represented in the total population (50% to 49%), and the picture is broadly similar in the labour force (52% men and 48% women).  However, females occupy a disproportionate percentage of part-time jobs, at 65%.  At the same time, females now receive 60% of all post-secondary degrees, diplomas and certificates awarded by universities, colleges and technical institutes.  Even so, on average women earn only ~68% of what male workers do, while having a life expectancy of 83 years – four years more than males.  What does this say about the lost opportunity for the Canadian and BC economies? 

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Skill Shortages: Weighing Employers' Views

While academic researchers and policy analysts continue to debate the extent and implications of skill shortages, employers in Canada seem convinced that shortages exist and are an important factor constraining business expansion.

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The Demand for and Supply of Skills

One of the puzzles in the contemporary Canadian labour market is the co-existence of skills shortages in some regions and occupations along with an unemployment rate hovering near 7% as well as mounting evidence of significant “under-employment” among many workers – particularly young adults. This situation suggests there are labour market imbalances, and that they appear to be growing larger over time. Many Business Council members tell us that British Columbia is experiencing mismatches in the demand for and supply of skills.

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How Much Are Employees in BC Earning?

The question of what people are paid in their jobs is obviously of great importance to individual employees. It’s also relevant in a broader, macro-economic sense. Because the bulk of total household income comes from employment, it follows that the spending power of most people is strongly influenced by how much they earn from working.

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Building Links Between Disabled Persons and the Workforce

About 700,000 people in BC are characterized as having some kind of disability, and approximately half of these are in the “traditional” working age group of 15 to 64. The good news is that 56% of disabled British Columbians are employed, albeit this is about 20% lower than the share for non-disabled workers.  Some 64% of the 150,000 disabled persons who are not in the workforce are precluded from working due to the severity of their limitations. 

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Finlayson: The Plight of the Overeducated Worker (Troy Media)

Statistics Canada’s latest Labour Force Survey points to a softening in the job market.  Across many advanced economies, employment has been slow to recover from the punishing blow delivered by the 2008-09 recession, with young adults in particular shouldering much of the burden.  Canada has done better than most, but even here the youth unemployment rate still hovers near 14%, double the overall rate.  Many young adults are finding the search for gainful employment tough sledding.

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New WorkSafeBC Policies on Bullying and Harassment - A Review of the Duties of Employers in BC

On July 1, 2012, Section 5.1(1)(a)(ii) of the Workers Compensation Act (the “Act”) was enacted. Part of this new provision provides that a worker’s mental disorder is compensable under the Act where that disorder is caused by a work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment. Taken together with Section 115 of the Act, Section 5.1 requires employers to address bullying and harassment as they would any other hazard in the workplace by taking all reasonable steps in the circumstances to ensure the health and safety of their workers, and those workers present at a workplace where their work is being carried out.

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BC Agenda For Shared Prosperity Final Report

September 25, 2013 (Vancouver, BC) – The Business Council of British Columbia and the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce today released the final report of the BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity initiative. For a year, the two organizations have sought expert and community-based answers to the question: “How can BC become a more prosperous province for all British Columbians?”

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Finlayson: By 2021, half of all Greater Vancouverites likely foreign-born (Troy Media)

Statistics Canada has just started to release data drawn from its 2011 census and a major National Household Survey which the agency undertook at the same time. The results confirm what most people already know:

  • The population is aging, with the front-end of the baby boom generation having reached 65 in 2011;
  • Canadian society is urbanizing, as more of us are living in large and mid-sized cities;
  • There are more one-person households, reflecting high divorce rates as well as longer life spans, and;
  • The workforce and population are becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, as immigration continues to shape the nation’s demographic profile.

All of these national-level trends are evident in British Columbia.

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Working Age People Drive Inter-provincial Migration

After many years of a net inflow of people from other parts of Canada, BC is now in a period of net interprovincial outmigration. As the graph below depicts, net migration tends to cycle up and down, largely reflecting relative economic strength and job opportunities. This is the fourth period of negative interprovincial migration BC has experienced since 1970.

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