Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Worry Technology Will Force 'Vulnerable' Groups out of Labour Force

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Worry Technology Will Force 'Vulnerable' Groups out of Labour Force

Article excerpt

Feds eye programs for 'vulnerable' workers

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OTTAWA - Fearing that technologically demanding jobs will force "vulnerable" workers out of the labour market -- and strain government benefits programs -- federal officials have quietly looked for ways to boost employment among Indigenous people, new Canadians and people with disabilities, internal documents show.

A presentation to top civil servants last year, marked "secret," says the government wanted to find a way to dispel stereotypes that act as employment barriers.

For example, the documents point out that employers often are reluctant to hire people with disabilities, believing it will be too difficult to accommodate them as workers.

Increasing the employment rate in every "vulnerable" workers' group by just one per cent could expand Canada's economy by about half a percentage point, officials estimated in the documents -- a noticeable amount when annual growth is about two per cent.

Also, new technologies are forcing companies to look for highly skilled workers, and many of the workers in these groups are considered lower-skilled.

Officials worried the labour-market shift will make it even tougher for these workers to find jobs, cause those working to lose their positions, and increase reliance on federal benefits for income, which would strain Ottawa's finances.

"The unpredictability of the changing nature of work and demographic pressures could exacerbate the vulnerabilities and 'tip' those at the threshold into the most vulnerable group," the documents read.

The Canadian Press obtained documents under the federal access-to-information law at a time when the Liberals have publicly talked about using the 2019 budget -- the last before next fall's federal election -- to focus on skills training.

Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said recently in a year-end interview that more needs to be done on skills training to make sure that people who have harder times in the workforce feel like they have fair shots in the job market. …

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