Quebec’s manufacturing/export sector suffering from labour shortage, according to MEQ

39 per cent of businesses have thought of moving outside province, says lobby group

According to the Manufacturers and Exporters of Quebec (MEQ), at least $356 million was lost in the past year because of ongoing labour shortages in the province’s manufacturing sector.

Losses piling up

The MEQ represents 1,100 manufacturers across Quebec. The manufacturing sector in Quebec employs more than 497,000 people, representing 12.6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, as well as 86.1 per cent of exports.

The lobby group says the losses were the result of cancelled contracts, repeated delays as well as losses resulting from investments that were delayed or cancelled.

Jobs going unfilled

According to an annual survey conducted by the association, nearly all of the businesses in Laval, the Laurentians and Lanaudière that were contacted confirmed having an average 27 vacant job positions.

One of the immediate results, according to the MEQ, is that 39 per cent of businesses in the three regions have thought seriously about relocating at least part of the activities to another region of the world, or of contracting work to sub-contractors in other regions.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents said the labour shortage is impacting the mental health of workers. The industrial sectors in Quebec most impacted by the labour shortage are parts and materials manufacturing for transport, machine manufacturing and the food industry.

Quebec not doing enough

Véronique Proulx, president and executive-director of the MEQ.

While less well-paid jobs are difficult to fill, those paying more competitive salaries are the most difficult to find employees for. According to the MEQ, nearly half the vacant positions are in the $20 to $29 per hour range, while 38 per cent pay more than $30 per hour. Six out of 10 businesses in the survey were of the opinion that the provincial government could be doing a lot more to help relieve the problem.

“While there is more and more talk about an economic recession, Quebec and its regions have a greater need for prosperous businesses,” says Véronique Proulx, president and executive-director of the MEQ.

“In order to ensure their competitiveness against international players, they need people. There is no magic solution to fix the issues underlying the labour shortage in the manufacturing sector. But it is possible to use a series of levers to help alleviate the impacts on our businesses in Quebec, the Laurentians, Lanaudière and Laval.”

Imigration limits questioned

Among other things, she notes the CAQ government’s current limits being imposed on immigration levels, the acceleration of automation and robotization, and an increase in the number of manufacturers benefiting from training programs as factors affecting the situation.

“We are at the dawn of a recession, so the government should be making the labour shortage a priority, while doing more faster, to support manufacting businesses, which are the pillars of our regional economic development,” added Proulx.