Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. I thank everyone here for the opportunity to discuss this motion, M-190, and I thank you again for the unanimous support that this motion received on second reading.
Chair, I'd like to set the stage for motion M-190 today. Our government is proud of the $180 billion we're investing in infrastructure. Both our residential construction sector and our ICI—the industrial, commercial, and institutional sector—are experiencing tremendous growth. We have an economy that has created 900,000 net new jobs since we took office. Our unemployment rate is at a 40-year low.
Our government is seizing the moment and seizing the opportunities for everyone: all Canadians, women and girls, men and boys, indigenous, everyone, no matter the colour of your skin, your sexual orientation, the place you came from or when you arrived, whether many generations ago or just yesterday.
Members, we need all Canadians at their best, so that they—we—can take advantage of these tremendous opportunities and contribute as a collective and personally to this prosperity, all the while growing our middle class and those working hard to join it.
M-190 is aimed at addressing the ongoing challenges that the construction industry is facing due to a lack of skilled labour in the sector within the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, the GTHA. I'd like to see recommendations that can be put forward, along with an analysis of M-39, the Atlantic immigration pilot project, as a template, and the use of permanent immigration to assist in addressing this huge challenge.
The homes we live in, the businesses where we work, our hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, underground sewers and pipes, all of those places are built by construction workers. It's hard work, as temperatures on a work site can be as much as 30° below or 30° above. In many cases, it's back-breaking work for the men and women who build up our cities, towns and villages. Brick by brick, block by block and stone by stone, these mid-level skilled construction trades—bricklayers, form workers, framers and carpenters—are the backbone of the construction industry, and they're in short supply across the country.
The shortage is exacerbated, especially in the high-growth greater Toronto and Hamilton area. These are good-paying, family-sustaining jobs, but Canadian parents and schools are just not encouraging our kids to get into the mud-on-your-boots, dirt-in-your-fingernails type of work, as I always like to say. I've listened to stakeholders, labour leaders, workers, contractors and industry advocates together, who express major concerns in regard to a “severe”—in their words—labour shortage of qualified employees. With increased labour shortages, businesses not only are hampered momentarily, but also have significant planning and future growth challenges.
This motion is geared toward providing residents of the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, and all of Canada, with a plan for sustainable economic growth in the construction sector. The GTHA is home to a thriving construction industry. The construction sector has become Canada's biggest job generator, in percentage terms, consistently expanding and currently accounting for almost 5% of the entire Canadian labour market.
StatsCan projects that the population will grow and will reach an estimated 51 million by 2063. This projected increase in population will continue to drive construction demand for years to come. However, there is a critical shortage of skilled labour that is currently happening. Across Canada, it's expected that a quarter of the entire construction work force will retire in the next 10 years.
Just in Ontario, this mismatch of skills is projected at a $24.3-billion loss in forgone gross domestic product, and a $3.7-billion loss in provincial tax. Besides this forgone revenue, the labour shortage has far-reaching consequences for an industry that accounts for 6% of Ontario's GDP. As the Canadian population ages and more people are set to retire, it's estimated that 87,000 construction workers will retire within the next 10 years. That's nearly 20% of the Ontario construction workforce.
Looking forward, we see that an aging workforce and retirements will account for a higher share of new job openings over the next decade. While the age profile of the Ontario population shows that it is growing older, natural population growth plus immigration to the province should help sustain overall population growth across this scenario period.
Nevertheless, the pool of available local youth entering the workforce is in decline, while retirements are on the rise. Construction employment in Ontario has increased by approximately 200,000 workers since 1997 and now accounts for 6.9% of total Ontario employment. However, at the pace the industry is growing, it will not only need to replace this retiring personnel, but it will need to attract additional workers, with estimates ranging from 20,000 to 80,000 new recruits needed by 2027 to keep up with demand in Ontario alone.
Currently, a distortion exists among youth, skills and skilled trades. The nature of employment is currently changing. However, the skilled trades will continue having a strong labour demand in the foreseeable future. Skills Canada has stated that it estimates that in the next 10 years, 40% of new jobs will be in the skilled trades, but only 26% of young people aged 13 to 24 are considering pursuing a career in the skilled trades. This information is consistent with trades not appealing to those aged 13 to 24. Skilled trades tend to be a second choice for most, with routes to university or college seen as the preferred path. There has to be a concerted effort in demonstrating that trades are an equal route to personal success and satisfaction, an equal first choice.
Demand in the construction industry is expected to grow in the foreseeable future. Polls indicate that 32% of contractors expected more business in 2018 as compared to 2017, while 51%, when asked, stated they expected the same level of business and activity. These studies all point to a very confident and healthy construction sector.
Additionally, there will be a continued demand due to immigration growth, government affordable housing programs, climate change mitigation, maintenance and renovations. It's imperative to study the labour shortage in order to create policies that will enable that construction sector to thrive and continue to provide good, well-paying jobs for Canadians.
The incentive towards having young people pursue careers in the skilled trades may take time to catch on and be implemented. There needs to be a policy implemented that will ensure continuity between a generation of retiring skilled labourers and the construction industry's increased demand for skilled labour. Just four years from now, there will be more seniors than there will be children enrolled in high school, while by 2030, there will be just two people in the workforce for every one who is retired. This demographic shift that is beginning to take place will have a drastic impact upon the labour market, especially in the construction sector.
Critics argue that the skills shortage is exaggerated, as there remains youth unemployment within Canada. Yet professional associations, along with the industry professionals, all agree that there is a shortage within the workforce that will only continue to grow. Unemployment among older and experienced workers is at an all-time low, with the numbers dipping under 3%. This trend indicates that older workers are staying in the job longer, while younger workers lack the necessary skills to fill those vacancies. From a policy-making perspective, collaboration with all involved stakeholders is required—employers, apprentices, journeypersons, employees and unions. The entire scope of the phenomenon needs to be studied.
Private member's motion 39, about immigration as a means of growth in Atlantic Canada, commissioned a study of the ways to increase and retain immigrants to Atlantic Canada, with an objective of implementing policies that will strengthen the workforce and provide economic growth. Although there are differences between the construction sector and the entire economy of Atlantic Canada, valuable information is available from the implementation of M-39.
As the construction industry continues to grow, it's also subject to a dramatic demographic shift. Construction has provided opportunities for success for generations of immigrants and Canadians alike. The industry has provided skill-building opportunities while serving as a launching pad for so many immigrants coming to Canada in hopes of building a better future, helping to construct homes and building what is now the primary capital asset for most Canadians.
M-190 hopes to address the current challenges that are associated with the lack of skilled labour in the GTHA construction sector. I would like to see recommendations put forward to assist the industry and to look at the Atlantic model as a template for providing the industry with the skilled construction workers it needs.
Again, I want to thank the committee for this opportunity.
Chair, I look forward to answering the members' questions.