Québec City, QUE — Québec is investing $3.4 billion over the next five years to combat its labour shortage and stimulate economic growth. The announcement comes as part of an update to Québec’s economic and financial situation made by the province’s Ministry of Finance on Nov. 25.
The province will provide additional initiatives totally $10.7 billion over the next five years, bringing the total amount invested by the government since the March 2021 budget to $13 billion.
According to the province, over the past three years, measures have been taken to improve Québecers’ standard of living and narrow the wealth gap with Ontario, which has shrunk from 16.4 per cent in 2017 to 12.9 per cent in 2021. This is where the new funding towards the ongoing labour shortage comes into play.
“Québec’s economy is currently experiencing an extraordinary recovery thanks to the mobilization of Québecers and a successful vaccination campaign,” reports Eric Girard, Québec’s minister of finance in a press release. “The substantial improvement in public finances enables us to help Quebecers cope with the cost of living and to act to accelerate economic growth by combatting the labour shortage and stimulating business productivity.”
Investment will be made in training, re-qualifying, and attracting workers in key areas of employment, including construction, engineering, health and social services, education, educational childcare services, and information technologies.
According to Québec’s “Economic and Financial Situation: Fall 2021” report, the province is aiming to attract close to 170,000 workers within five years. In the engineering and information technology sectors, they are looking to bring 55,000 additional workers. For the construction industry alone, they are looking at attracting 55,000 workers. The majority of the plan will be based on filling in-demand jobs by training and re-qualifying the current workforce. Additionally, the province is planning on filling the positions by improving working conditions. A smaller portion will be focused on attracting and retaining foreign workers.
“The construction sector is one of Québec’s leading activity sectors,” according to the economic and financial report. “It is also a critical sector, since investing in infrastructure helps stimulate the economy.”
As part of the March 2021 Budget, the government announced their intentions to provide $95.3 million over 2020-2023, including $32.4 million for initiatives designed to reduce the labour shortage. Further support will be given to people looking for work in the construction sector or for workers in this field who want to upgrade their skills. Actions to reduce the labour shortage in this sector totals $97.4 million by 2025-2026, which is $70.2 million in additional investments and $27.2 million in financing from the departments’ current budget envelopments, according to the province.
State of the province
Under the 2021-2031 Québec Infrastructure Plan, which totals $135 billion, the province has created 42 measures that focus mainly on the construction sector. Thirty-nine measures had been initiated as of Sept. 30, 2021. This includes the referral of over 1,100 unemployed workers to training for the construction trades and the provision of a wage subsidy for the hiring of over 400 unemployed workers. Additionally, the province accelerated the entry of 4,300 apprentices into the journeyperson qualification examination. Lastly, more than 1,100 student certificates were issued which makes it easier to enter the construction trades.
According to the province, the construction sector employed an average of 288,300 people after 10 months in 2021, compared to 256,000 in 2020 and 266,600 in 2019. After seven months, the gross domestic product (GDP) in the construction sector was 107.7 per cent of its pre-pandemic level, compared to 100.3 per cent for all industries.
A new incentive scholarship program for students enrolled in programs of targeted occupations will be awarded after each successful full-time session. Students can receive up to $9,000 at the college level, $15,000 at the university level for a three-year program, and $20,000 for a four-year university program after completing their training.
Initiatives totalling $444 million will be given to accelerate business productivity growth by increasing funding for investment projects and supporting the implementation of the first innovation zones. “The innovation zones are at the heart of the government’s vision, building on Québec’s talents and expertise in the sectors of the future and cutting-edge technologies,” according to the March 2021 Budget.