On May 13, Jean Boulet, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, visited the Chamber to discuss the main economic issue facing the city and Quebec today: labour shortage. He took advantage of his presence here to launch version 2.0 of his “Grande corvée,” a comprehensive tour of Quebec’s regions. The first version of this exercise began last January and was aimed at employers. This time, it will focus especially on workers. The goal is to share the government's actions with them, to understand their needs and to support them on their path.
Minister Boulet recognized from the outset the peculiarities of the city in terms of workforce issues. He underlined as an example that the number of vacant positions in Montréal increased by 23.3% in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, and that one-third of vacant positions across Quebec are located in Montréal.
Here are three key points of his speech, outlining the measures the government intends to take to support businesses.
A plan for experienced workers
Jean Boulet wants to integrate under-represented groups into the labour market. This includes experienced workers, but also indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and immigrants.
Experienced workers’ drive to remain active longer is often very powerful, according to the Minister. He jokingly says he himself is an experienced worker who still has lots to offer.
He points out that their years of experience and the many skills they acquired over time are an important asset. Therefore, he believes that experienced workers can play a mentoring role and maximize company performance.
The former lawyer recalled key measures from Quebec's last budget, presented in March at the Chamber by his colleague, Finance Minister Eric Girard. The government will invest $892 million over five years to extend the careers of experienced workers.
The career extension tax credit will be increased by $533 million over five years. According to the Minister, nearly 158,000 workers will benefit from these tax reduction measures.
Companies will also be able to take advantage of government actions and receive a 50% refund of the Quebec contributions paid for employees aged 60 to 64, as well as 75% for workers aged 65 and over. More than 34,000 SMEs will benefit from these tax credits.
Aim for lifelong learning and assess future needs
In a context of economic transformation, Mr. Boulet also wants to support workers in adapting their skills, particularly through lifelong learning. He also wants to prepare the future workforce and offer training adapted to the changing needs of the labour market. He says that, to do this, young people in particular must be reached and encouraged to enrol.
The jobs of the future will require increasingly precise qualifications. This requires special efforts during the students' academic career. The Minister wants companies to be open to "student employees" so that they can grow with flexible schedules. Minister Boulet intends to promote work-life balance as well. He also acknowledges that the current labour shortage context favours employees now more than ever. This means that employers must stand out to attract and retain talent.
Finally, the Minister wants to improve business productivity. He considers it essential to improve Quebec's performance in this area in order to generate more wealth. Indeed, despite its robust economic performance in recent years, Quebec still sits below the Canadian and Ontario averages.
According to Mr. Boulet, it is not enough to encourage workers to be active longer; they must also be allowed to work better. He provides a few examples such as work reorganization and optimization, equipment acquisition, digitization, automation, information technology, and research and development. He also points out that
subsidies are available for training related to the acquisition of new technology to increase productivity.