Canadians support looking to Asia to fill labour gap in high-skilled sectors, poll finds


Canadians are aware of the country’s skilled-labour shortage and are generally supportive of using talent from Asia to fill the gap, according to an Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada report released today.

The APF’s 2019 national opinion poll on “Canadian views on human capital from Asia” saw the Vancouver-based think-tank commission EKOS Research Associations to survey 1,524 Canadians between July 29 and August 6 of this year.

The polling found 56% of Canadians recognize the country is suffering in terms of global competitiveness because of a shortage of labour in science/technology/engineering/mathematics (STEM) talent. Meanwhile, 54% agree that Canada “should look to Asia for international talent in the next 10 years.”

“When presented with the opportunity to capitalize on the tightened immigration policy in the United States, 60% of Canadians support attracting high-skilled talent from Asia,” the report added. “Finally, a considerable majority - 74% - think highly educated workers with STEM skills deserve further attention in our immigration policy.”

The report also revealed some other noteworthy positions taken by Canadians on hiring skilled labour from Asia: Only 3% placed birthplace as a hiring priority, while 53% supported international talent that originates from countries “sharing Canada’s core values to some extent.” As many as 40% of the respondents placed priority solely on a candidate’s individual traits, discounting any consideration for the country of origin altogether.

However, the support level for using immigration from Asia to quell high-skill labour demands in Canada is uneven across political/ideological spectrums, the report found. Specifically, “44% more Liberals than Conservatives are likely to look towards Asia” for foreign talent in the next 10 years. In fact, support for immigration policy towards Asia (specifically for attracting talent) was lower across the board among Conservatives, where potential measures such as enhanced visa/talent mobility agreements received only 48% support - versus 73% from Liberals, 68% from NDP supporters and 63% from those who align with the Greens.

“This drastic difference cannot entirely be explained by the fact that Liberals are more likely to perceive a storage of high-skilled workers,” the report said. “… Rather, this difference can be explained by different sentiment towards Asia. Canadians sharing different political views exhibit major differences in their perception of the benefits and concerns of Asian talent immigration.”

The full report can be read at www.asiapacific.ca/.