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National priorities 2016 – Job one is jobs: Workers need better policy support and stronger skills

Among the challenges facing Canada’s economy in 2016, tackling vulnerabilities in labour markets will be essential to the prosperity of Canadians. The nation’s labour markets are being transformed by structural forces of globalization, technical change and aging demographics, while being buffeted by cyclical factors like the recurring boom-bust in commodity prices. These forces have displaced many workers and have led to persistent and – amid the current commodity price shock – growing slack in the labour market. Moreover, the structural trends are raising demand for high-skilled positions relative to middle- and low-skill jobs. Questions arise about whether the composition of labour supply is keeping pace with the changing times. In this brief, I address four key policy priorities to reduce labour market vulnerabilities: (i) better support for displaced workers, (ii) improving labour market information, (iii) increasing skills development for the workers of today and tomorrow, and (iv) removing barriers to success for marginalized or underutilized workers.