Ag labour shortage getting worse

Agriculture has the highest job vacancy rate of any industry in Canada, and that labour shortfall may soon become much larger.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) released results of a labour market information survey of primary agriculture March 15 in Winnipeg. The CAHRC report, based on data from 2014, indicates the gap between labour demand in primary agriculture and the supply of domestic employees willing to work in farming is 59,000. By 2025, the ag labour shortage could nearly double, growing to 114,000.

The shortfall will likely expand because the supply of Canadians willing to work on farms is expected to shrink over the next decade. Immigrants, young graduates and people coming from other sectors will provide a population of newcomers to agriculture, but that won’t offset the losses of retiring farmers and retiring farm labourers between now and 2025.

“These new findings from CAHRC clearly highlight the need for a long-term strategy that will address the challenges Canadian producers are facing due to labour issues,” said Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Ron Bonnett.

The 59,000 gap represents the difference between labour demand and supply in primary agriculture. Put another way, it’s the number of people farm businesses want to hire compared to the number of Canadians willing to work in agriculture.

CAHRC surveyed 1,034 people to assemble its data. The survey generated a slew of data on ag labour:

• In 2004, the labour gap in primary agriculture was 30,100 people. By 2014 it had increased to 59,200.

• Unfilled vacancies cost the primary ag industry $1.5 billion in lost sales in 2014, or 2.7 percent of the sector’s total sales.

• The lack of labour caused higher rates of lost sales in the fruit and vegetable sector, hogs and grains and oilseeds.

• 17 percent of employers who participated in the survey said they had delayed or cancelled expansion plans because they couldn’t find farm workers.

• The top three impediments to recruiting ag labourers were:

• the seasonal nature of farm work

• convincing people to live in rural areas

• the wage gap between farm work and the average wage in Canada

• The survey found the weekly wages in primary agriculture, on average, were 72 percent of the weekly wages for all economic sectors in Canada.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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