Labour shortages in agriculture are a challenge across nearly the entire sector, and unfortunately the issue cannot be fixed overnight.
At this year’s Canadian Beef Industry Conference held at Calgary, Alta., the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) gave an update on the state of labour for the beef industry, along with agriculture as a whole.
“We’ve been tracking a labour shortage for quite a few years, and what’s troubling is when we started this issue, we noted that (back in) 2004, the (agriculture) industry was short 30,000 workers, and moving forward into 2014 and now based on numbers we just released, in 2018, we’ve seen a doubling of those numbers in that 10 year period,” says Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of CAHRC. “When we do projections to 2029, we see it doubling again to 123,000 workers short, so this is really concerning.”
There’s no room for growth within the industry, she says, such as expanded market access if the labour issue isn’t tackled right away. What’s interesting is that it doesn’t appear to be one thing that’s causing the shortage, rather numerous issues such as wages, and interest in the sector for example, that all need to be addressed going forward.
“It’s not a quick fix,” she says.
When it comes to the beef industry, she points out it’s one where people tend to work late into their career. This means within the next 10 years or so, those who currently run the ranch will think about retiring, ie: baby boomers; however, sometimes there’s not a younger generation that wants to take it over.
“It’s not just at the entry level where we’ll need to find new people, we’re also needing those experienced owners and operators and to find some replacements for them along the way.”
To learn more about the impacts of labour shortages and what’s being done by agencies like CAHRC, watch the video below between RealAgriculture’s Jessika Guse and Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst of CAHRC.