Eggs, chickens, and all that jazz

David Shipley has a piece in the TJ this morning covering a new APEC report titled: The Growing Importance of Older Workers in Atlantic Canada.

Shipley quotes a variety of experts predicting gloom and doom and advocating forcing seniors to work until their 90 (my exaggeration).

You know what’s funny? New Brunswick women are still having more babies than British Columbian women and yet we are getting older faster. Hmmm.

The truth is that a strong economy is the basis for in-migration, immigration, etc. Good paying jobs supplemented by vibrant communities that are great places to raise families will attract people. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have ‘population secretariats’ or immigrations stategies. Of course we should. But it’s really chicken and egg.

Take Halifax. They attracted a half dozen financial services firms and their back offices with jobs paying an average of $70k per year. They are now aggressively recruiting in a highly targeted way immigrants and migrants to work in those jobs (as well as working with local educational institutions).

You want to ‘solve’ the population crisis in Northern New Brunswick? ‘Solve’ the economic crisis in Northern New Brunswick. Not by sprinkling a few low paying call centre jobs up there every couple of years (although I don’t have a problem with call centre jobs) or dumping more money into tourism (who would move to New Brunswick to make $8/hour for three months?).

We need a serious, well-defined strategy for economic development in New Brunswick and the workers to support that strategy should be a key part of that strategy.

Come on. Just encouraging old timers to work more? Heck, if they want to – that’s great. I expect to work well into my 70s myself. No problem. But as a solution to some ‘labour shortage’? Cripes folks. How many times do we need to see the data? 14 straight years of net out-migration. That’s not a population problem. That’s not a demographic problem. It means we can’t even keep the people we have here already let alone attract folks from outside.

Final point on this. McGuire is also right. The days of local employers paying sub-par wages because they can – is over. I visited a local manufacturing operation in the 1990s where the people were paid between $7.50 – $8.50/hour to do assembly line work. They were laid off at least 3-4 months out of the year. In addition, most of the men were bare chested because of the summer heat and no air conditioning in the plant. Big fans were scattered everywhere.

Those days are rapidly coming to an end – even in rural New Brunswick. This is a benefit of a tightening labour pool and it should push up average wages and create better working conditions in many places of employment.

Now, you say I am heartless and this will push many small businesses out of business. Well, say hello to Darwin. A goal of economic development is a rise in the economic standard of living.

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