Sigh. Here we go again. More evidence-free corporate policy advocacy.
The Chamber of Commerce put out a report today – actually I can’t find much in the way of background research on their web site – which points with alarm to labour and skills shortages, and calls for a less generous EI program to get workers to move to the supposedly available jobs.
“A growing shortage of highly skilled labour is becoming desperate, threatening our ability to keep up in a global, knowledge-based economy… Our Employment Insurance Program perpetuates regional disparity and discourages Canadians from relocating to where work is available.”
Problem is that there are clearly – based on the new job vacancy data – many more unemployed workers than there are job vacancies.
And there is no evidence that wages are rising in occupations deemed by the Chamber to be in short supply. (See the report in the Globe and Mail which cites potential labour shortages in construction and hotels.) A quick perusal of the data show that average hourly earnings in construction in October, 2011 were $27.99, down from $28.14 a year earlier. Average hourly wages in accommodation and food services were a princely $13.29, up a meagre 13 cents per hours from a year earlier. (SEPH Data.)
And EI as a disincentive to inter-regional labour mobility? A lot of people say so based on myths and anecdotes, but an authoritative background studyÂ for the Mowat Centre Report on EI by Day and Winer found that “there is no evidence in the empirical literature that regional variation in the generosity of the employment insurance system has altered internal migration patterns in Canada in a substantial manner.”
I do think that we face some skills shortages down the road which create lots of opportunities for active labour market policy to be more effective. But we do not face significant labour shortages today and the EI program does not make things worse, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce notwithstanding.