The foodservice industry in Canada was facing a labour shortage, even before the pandemic. According to a recent report from Statistics Canada, job vacancies for the industry has since doubled. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 68,000 vacant foodservice jobs. This August, reports show there are currently 130,000 vacancies.
The shortage is attributed to declining birth rates, an ageing population, and changing work preferences amongst the younger workforce. In their efforts to recruit staff, restaurants are offering incentives such as higher pay, health and dental benefits, referral bonuses, and flexible work schedules.
Results of a recent survey by Restaurants Canada found that 80% of foodservice employers were finding it difficult to fill vacancies for kitchen staff, while 67% were struggling to find front-of-house employees (servers, bartenders, and hostesses). Nearly half of all survey respondents expect that the number of unfilled roles will only increase within the next year.
The foodservice industry wants to expand the shrinking pool of applicants by making it easier to bring foreign restaurant workers to Canada and retain them once they arrive.
Ahead of Canada’s recent election, Restaurants Canada, the national voice of foodservice, asked restaurateurs what the government can do to help them stay afloat. Their proposed measures included the expansion of labour pilot programs (such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program), an increase in funding for immigration application to ease the administrative burden and reduce processing times, the extension of work visas, and the addition of a foodservice stream to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)
Currently, there are few federal immigration options for foodservice workers in Canada. In May 2021, Canada introduced a temporary public policy that allowed certain temporary foreign workers employed in essential occupations – foodservice workers included – to apply for Canadian permanent residence. Ahead of the recent federal election, Trudeau had promised to create even more pathways to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers in Canada.
Canadian employers are increasingly looking to immigration to improve Canadian labour market gaps. With Justin Trudeau’s recent re-election, we can expect for immigration to continue to be a priority in Canada. Trudeau recognizes the great contributions of immigrants and sees immigration as a way for Canada’s economy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
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