The Future of Alberta’s Labour Market: The Role of Immigration, Migration, and Developing Existing HUman Capital

This paper discusses the ways of increasing Alberta’s labour force. Increasing Alberta’s labour supply at the extensive margin involves increasing the population, which can be accomplished in three ways: higher birth rates, increased numbers of migrants arriving from other Canadian provinces, and increased immigration. Given these trends, immigration is becoming an increasingly important source of labour force growth throughout Canada, and Alberta is no exception. Immigrants are not a homogenous group, and there are a variety of immigration programs targeted at specific groups of potential newcomers. The economic and labour market outcomes of newcomers admitted under these programs are different, with factors such as language ability, domestic work experience, and the ability of employers to recognize credentials being important to the success of immigrants in the Canadian labour market. Two programs, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), have seen an increase in both the number and proportion of immigrants admitted in recent years, and the evidence to date shows they are performing well economically. The number of immigrants coming to Alberta through the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has dropped significantly from its peak in 2013, but Alberta still accounts for a disproportionate number of workers admitted under the program. While there are significant concerns about both the treatment of workers under the program and its effect on wage suppression in some industries, there is evidence that a limited TFWP may be beneficial. The final source of potential labour through immigration is foreign students. While there has been a tripling of foreign students across Canada over the last 20 years, Alberta has not experienced the same level of growth. Unfortunately, there is very limited room to increase the overall labour supply in Alberta at the intensive margins. Better addressing credential recognition, both in regulated occupations and the skilled trades, is another way Alberta could better utilize the talent of its current population.