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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.

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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New Census and National Household Survey Highlight Key Demographic Trends in BC

Statistics Canada has 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; Canada’s society is urbanizing, as more of us are living in large and mid-sized cities; there are more one-person households, reflecting the high incidence of divorce as well as longer life spans; and the workforce and population are becoming more multi-ethnic, as immigration continues to shape the nation’s demographic profile.

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

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Exports, Skills and Incomes

Small open economies depend heavily on trade to stimulate growth, provide employment and sustain incomes. The development of competitive export-oriented industries is particularly important for small regional economies that, by definition, aren’t able to reap the economic advantages associated with having large internal/domestic markets. British Columbia is a good case in point.

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BCBC Publication:
Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: Separating Fact from Fiction

Human Capital Policy and Law Volume 3, Issue 3

The increase in the number of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada has sparked controversy and prompted a fair amount of unfavourable commentary over the past year or so. Some union leaders have suggested that foreign workers here on a temporary basis are displacing Canadians from jobs and distorting local labour markets. A few academic commentators have probed and raises questions about the legal rights and status of TFWs. In contrast, many business leaders point to the challenges companies face in finding people to fill jobs, notably in some regions, and argue that TFWs are often essential to their operations. Temporary foreign workers are also frequently sought for specific skills which may not be sufficiently available in the Canadian market.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Temporary Foreign Workers: Facts and Fiction (Vancouver Sun)

Canada has a long tradition of attracting immigrants to become permanent residents.  Immigration in many ways built the country and did much to stimulate economic growth in the post-war era.  The context for international migration, however, is changing.  Greater international mobility, instant access to information from around the world, and growing cross-border flows of goods, services and knowledge have all made international migration a possibility for a rising share of the world’s population.  The result is an increase in the volume and types of movement of people between jurisdictions.  Today, this includes substantial numbers of “temporary” migrants who come to relatively affluent countries like Canada for work or education.

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A Review of Trends in Union Density

An examination of the evolution of the position of trade unions in the overall labour market underscores the challenges facing the union movement in British Columbia and Canada as a whole. The term “union density” is used to track the proportion of paid workers who are covered by a collective agreement. It can be thought of as a proxy for the “market share” of unions within the employed workforce, excluding people who are classified as self-employed.

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Examining Youth Unemployment Levels

As Canada and other industrialized countries struggle to return to a sustainable economic growth trajectory following the steep downturn of 2008-09, the difficulties being felt in the job market are proving particularly painful for young adults.

Youth unemployment rates have surged in many countries since 2008 – and have reached truly frightening levels in parts of Europe.  Across the 17 countries that comprise the common currency Eurozone, unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 stands at 25%.  In Greece and Spain, the figure exceeds 50%, while Italy and Portugal are grappling with youth unemployment rates in the vicinity of 35%.  

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Finlayson: Canada's job machine is robust (Vancouver Sun)

Canada’s jobs machine is chugging along nicely even as the nation’s economy appears to be losing a step. Statistics Canada’s latest labour force survey reports that 51,000 jobs were created in February, far more than economic forecasters were anticipating.

On a six-month moving average basis, employment gains have been averaging 30,000 per month. The unemployment rate remained steady at seven per cent in February, as the number of labour force entrants offset the new positions created.

Drilling down into the data, private sector employment rose by 30,000 last month; since September 2012, Canadian businesses have been expanding their payrolls by 20,000 a month. By industry, job gains were concentrated in service-producing sectors, with professional, scientific and technical services and accommodation and foodservices emerging as notable hot spots. Manufacturing employment sagged and continues to trail the economy-wide job growth rate.

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Mental Disorder Claims Under the Workers' Compensation Act
- A Human Resources/Labour Relations Perspective

Section 5.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the WCA) was enacted effective July 1, 2012. The intent of the revision was to expand the scope of mental disorder claims arising out of and in the course of employment which would be accepted as compensable under the WCA. One aspect of this expanded coverage involves a mental disorder claim by a worker that “is predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment, or a cumulative series of significant work-related stressors, arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment.”

An immediate concern for employers from the implementation of Section 5.1 was an anticipated significant increase in mental disorder claims that would be filed by workers with WorkSafe BC. For those employer representatives responsible for administering compensation claims, it is expected that dealing with mental disorder claims may well evolve into a significant component of their work responsibilities.

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Canada's Economic Immigration Program to be Transformed

The Conservative government is embarking on a major overhaul of Canada’s economic immigration program. The new approach will give employers a greatly elevated role in the immigration process and hopefully reduce lengthy delays that have long plagued the immigration system. If it runs as anticipated, the revamped program should help deliver skilled immigrants to sectors and regions of the country where they are needed – and do so faster.

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