Agreement to increase cap for temporary foreign workers in weeks, Minister of Labor says

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Quebec is finalizing an agreement with Ottawa that will allow more foreign workers to work in sectors such as retail, restaurant and accommodation, Jean Boulet said on Friday.

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Relief for understaffed restaurants and hotels in Quebec is on its way.

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The province is finalizing an agreement with Ottawa that will allow more foreign workers over the next few weeks to serve in sectors such as retail, food service and accommodation, the Minister of Labor said on Friday. Quebec, Jean Boulet. Temporary visas will be issued under a fast-track system, he said.

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Like many other jurisdictions, Quebec is grappling with a labor shortage that has left tens of thousands of jobs vacant in a wide range of industries. A pan-Canadian study on the labor shortage, released last month by BDC, the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs, found that hiring difficulties were the highest in Quebec.

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“We are going to make sure that there are jobs in the restaurant and accommodation sectors that have access to simplified processing,” Boulet said at an event organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

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“We’re almost there. We’re almost done identifying the jobs. We’ve done it in partnership with employers, unions and the education community. It should be up and running in a few weeks.”

Quebec could also alleviate labor shortages by following the lead of European countries and hiring disabled or elderly employees, Boulet said. More efforts could also be made to encourage Quebecers receiving social assistance, Aboriginals or former prisoners to join or re-enter the labor market, he said.

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“We should not neglect this labor pool,” he said. “Experienced workers want flexible hours, more vacations. There is huge potential here, and that’s one of my concerns.

Statistics Canada data shows that just over 36% of Quebecers aged 60 to 69 were employed in 2019, lower than the Canadian average of 41% and that of most OECD countries. In Ontario, the participation rate for these “experienced” workers was 42.9 per cent.

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If Quebec had been able to match Ontario’s participation rate, it would now have 69,466 additional older workers available, according to a study by HEC Montreal professors published this week. This pool of employees could have helped fill more than half of the nearly 130,000 jobs in Quebec that remained vacant in 2019.

“The labor shortage is not just on the shoulders of the government,” Boulet said. “It’s a collective challenge and there is no magic wand. We have to add up a number of different solutions. Let’s not be naive. The population is aging.

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