Agriculture facing huge worker shortage by 2030

Foreign workers fill part of the gap

OTTAWA-There could be 22,000 vacant jobs on farms across the country by 2030, a study done for the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has found. Without Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs), the number of unfilled jobs could be in the 100,000 range.

That staggering figure comes to a sector that has been struggling for years with a chronic domestic worker shortage. CAHRC said there was a 15 per cent increase in job vacancies in 2022 that could not be filled by Canadians or residents of Canada.

Entitled Sowing Seeds of Change, the labour market study was conducted by the Conference Board of Canada for CAHRC. It concluded that the problem is due in part to Canada’s aging population as more than 85,300 people - 30 per cent of the farm workforce - are expected to retire by the end of this decade.

Jennifer Wright, executive director of CAHRC, said, “Labour shortages are one of the most serious issues in agriculture because they have a direct impact on local food security, economic development and the sustainability of the sector.

“CAHRC’s labour market data offers the necessary insight to inform how we will tackle current and future challenges so our industry and its workforce can reach their full potential.”

The 126-page study includes an in-depth analysis by provinces and subsectors and offers a suite of recommendations to attract and retain more agriculture workers. This includes public education to improve perceptions of agriculture, developing and updating HR management practices and adopting new technology and automation.

It said there were 28,200 unfilled jobs in 2022 and that labour shortage caused a 3.7 per cent decline in sales that year, which cost the sector about $3.5 billion in foregone revenue.

The labour market forecast is a key data source that informs CAHRC’s National Workforce Strategic Plan (NWSP), she said. It is a national framework to address labour shortages and skill gaps throughout the sector.

More than 100 stakeholders, including primary producers, food and beverage manufacturers, educational institutions, producer groups, industry associations, and government officials, have participated in the development of this strategic plan.

The labour market study was funded through Employment and Social Development Canada’s Growing the Agriculture Workforce of the Future: Cultivating Canada’s Post-Pandemic Recovery initiative.

This news report was prepared for National Newswatch.