Strategic Focus and Action Items
Strengthen our workforce
The primary focus of the People pillar is to ensure we have jobs and career opportunities at home. All of us who want to work should have the chance to stay in our communities. At the same time, government must focus on attracting talent:
- by keeping New Brunswickers here;
- by bringing back expatriate New Brunswickers; and
- by placing greater attention on immigration to the province.
This focus is important to support our workforce needs and to foster a strong demographic foundation. Businesses will not invest and grow here unless they can recruit and retain talent.
The People pillar has elements that focus on the short-term and others that establish a long-term foundation to develop and attract talent. Government has challenges to address now. Many companies are struggling to find workers; they are putting off investments that would create jobs because of this.
In the long run, access to a workforce which matches available jobs will be crucial to the vibrancy and growth of the economy. Our tightening labour market is not well appreciated, but it is likely one of the main causes of our recent economic weakness. In the 1970s through 1990s, the labour market expanded by nearly 6,000 people on average per year. Between 1991 and 2008, it increased on average by more than 2,900 per year. Between 2009 and 2014, the labour market started to decline. Based on current trends, the New Brunswick workforce will decline steeply in the coming years. It is true that some of this contraction is a result of the weak economy, but there is overwhelming evidence it is also a cause of the weak economy. There is overwhelming evidence that a declining workforce weakens an economy. If not addressed, the problem will get worse.
Deeper dive: Bring the workforce back into balance
Between 2000 and 2014, the number of people in the New Brunswick workforce over the age of 55 swelled by more than 150 per cent. Over the same period, the number of people under the age of 45 declined by 16 per cent. The number of New Brunswickers collecting income from the Canada Pension Plan rose by 60 per cent while those earning employment income increased only marginally. In the near future an estimated 80,000 more of us will retire. If we don’t expand the base of young people working in the province we could end up in a couple of decades with as many people retired as working. We need to build a strong base of younger workers to ensure the economy has the capacity for growth in the years ahead.