Global Report

Millennials looking abroad for jobs as economy stagnates at home

BCG report says Canada remains popular destination for foreign workers

Canada is a nation of immigrants, and a new report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that there are plenty of workers in other countries who would like to join in. Despite a weak job market and growing wealth inequality, the maple leaf has retained its power to attract foreign citizens looking to migrate in search of a better life.

Decoding Global Talent suggests that nearly two-thirds of workers globally would accept a job abroad, with Canada the third most-popular destination:

Boston Consulting Group chart showing top immigration destinations

The state of Canada’s labour market is the source of much contention. Jobs are going unfilled, despite significant un- and underemployment, with employers blaming a lack of qualified workers (the so-called skills gap) and job seekers complaining that companies are too picky and unwilling to train.

Young job-hunters are responding by lowering their ambitions and settling for part-time and precarious work, and a second finding of the BCG report should alarm policymakers. Canada’s youth are 15–20% more likely than the population as a whole to consider emigrating in search of the right job, a split surpassed only by our southern neighbours:

Chart showing youth willingness to immigrate versus general population

Canadians show a slightly higher proclivity to pursue overseas employment opportunities than their OECD counterparts, with 50–60% either living abroad or expressing a willingness to do so. The significant age difference in immigration-readiness suggests that Canadian youth feel the economic climate is particularly ill-suited to their needs, meaning that the country could face brain drain if the right opportunities present themselves elsewhere.

But even providing good jobs for all these potential workers wouldn’t solve the labour market’s problems, because the workforce is shrinking: the number of millennials poised to enter the labour pool is lower than the number of baby boomers set to retire.

READ: Why hiring the right employee is about to get even harder »

Immigration provides the most effective solution to this problem, even if experiments with schemes like the Temporary Foreign Workers program have proven it’s not a panacea for labour market woes. A recent Statistics Canada Megatrends report suggests migration to Canada has accounted for the bulk of population growth since about 1999, and is only going to get more important in the coming decades:

Based on the medium-growth scenario, migratory increase could account for more than 80% of Canada’s population growth beginning in 2031. Without a sustained level of immigration, Canada’s population growth could be close to zero within 20 years.

One solution would be to try and attract potential instead of the finished product, wooing thousands more international students to come and study at our educational institutions.

Changes to the country’s immigration rules implemented by the federal government last year could help replenish the pool of workers available to employers, with a new emphasis on skills and youth. As long as Canada’s standing as a destination of choice for foreign job-seekers endures, the flood of applications to work here won’t be slowing any time soon.