Strength in diversity: Canadian labour market challenges and opportunities

JP Michel

This article originally appeared in the #TheWeekInCareers newsletter by Chris Webb.

Meet Shauna Seeteenak. Shauna is a Canadian Inuk hip-hop artist and political rapper, originally from Baker Lake, Nunavut. At ten years old, she realized that singing was a way to both convey her emotions and foster a collective connection.

Today, Shauna is reflecting on her career and her future, and how she can contribute her talent to highlight issues faced by Inuit communities. According to the 2021 census, she is one of 1.8 million Indigenous people living in Canada. In fact, from 2016 to 2021, Canada’s Indigenous population increased by 9.4%, compared to non-Indigenous population which grew by 5.3%. On average, the Indigenous population was also younger by 8.2 years compared to the non-Indigenous population.

As part of ongoing truth and reconciliation efforts, there is a growing recognition of the need to increase Indigenous representation in the workforce. Yet recent discoveries regarding treatment of indigenous youth in Canadian residential schools show that there is much work to be done.

The message for Shauna and her peers should be clear: the world needs you. There are so many challenges to solve in the world. Through youth contributions, Canada can reach its potential as a just and equitable place to live and work. 

Integrating the indigenous population into the workplace is one of several challenges and opportunities facing Canada, in addition to helping other equity-deserving groups secure gainful employment and decent work. This article will highlight several of these, as well as provide relevant resources for those interested in learning more. 

Labour mobility in a resource-rich economy 

Canada is a large country, with significant differences in employment opportunities, wages, and cost of living between different regions. This can create challenges for individuals who need to relocate in order to find employment opportunities, as well as for employers who may struggle to attract skilled workers to certain regions.

For example, Canada's northern region is large and sparsely populated, with many remote and Indigenous communities. These communities often face unique challenges in terms of accessing education and training opportunities, as well as finding employment opportunities that are relevant to their skills and experience.

Canada is also a resource-rich country, with significant industries in areas such as mining, forestry, and energy. In 2021, it is estimated that over 900 Canadian communities are economically relying on the natural resource sector. The dependence on these industries, however, can create volatility in the job market, with job losses and layoffs often occurring during times of economic downturn or shifts in demand.

Strength in diversity

Canada was the first country in the world to adopt a multiculturalism policy, which acknowledges that all cultures bring intrinsic value. The policy aimed to promote and embrace multiculturalism by actively fostering a spirit of openness, with the goal of increasing respect and celebrating cultural diversity across the country. 

One of the results of this policy is that immigrants make up a significant portion of the Canadian labour force. In fact, Canada admits the largest number of skilled labour migrants in the OECD. Canada’s immigration strategy is crafted in part to address its issues regarding an aging population and labour shortages

Another part of Canada's diversity is linguistic. Based on the 2021 Census, over 200 languages were identified as a mother tongue, with 18 of these languages having been reported by at least 100,000 people as their mother tongue. As an official bilingual country, many job postings in Canada require proficiency in both English and French. While this is often seen as an asset, it can create barriers to employment and career advancement for individuals who are not bilingual.

Positive Signals 

While Canadians are facing important challenges and opportunities, there are several reasons to feel optimistic about what the future will bring. First, Canada has one of the highest minimum wages among OECD countries, with a federal minimum wage of $16.65 CAD per hour (as of April 2023). 

Canada also has a strong culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, with many startups and small businesses emerging in recent years. Companies like Shopify, Element AI and Wealthsimple, amongst others, provide new job opportunities and contribute to the overall growth of the economy.

And while not strictly a labour market statistic, the representation of women in political decision-making roles can have a significant impact on policies that affect women in the labour market. Canada has one of the highest rates of women in national parliament, with women holding 29.7% of seats in the House of Commons as of 2021, compared to a global average of 25.5%.


Canada's labour market faces both challenges and opportunities. While skill shortages, a shrinking workforce, and a widening income gap pose significant challenges, the increasing diversity and inclusion, innovation and technology, and focus on skills development present opportunities to transform the labour market. To address these challenges and capitalize on these opportunities, it is essential for Canada to promote education and training programs that align with the needs of the labour market, create a more inclusive work environment, invest in innovation and technology, and prioritize lifelong learning. By doing so, Canada's labour market can become more diverse, innovative, and productive, benefiting workers and the economy as a whole.

Would you like to learn more about the Canadian labour market? We invite you to learn more from the resources shared below, and consider joining us at the next hybrid Cannexus, Canada’s largest career development conference.

Further resources:

CERIC’s Literature Search on Labour Market Trends:

CareerWise article: Visit these sites for the latest in Canadian labour market information 

Future Skills Centre: Focus on LMI: 

Labour Market Information Council’s LMI Best Practices Guide:

Labour Market Information Council’s Canadian Job Trends Dashboard: 

Dr. Candy Ho (何甜茵) is an international award-winning career development educator and scholar whose expertise is recognized globally through keynotes, consulting, and other engagements. She has been featured in BNN Blomberg, The Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Canadian Business, and CTV News. She is the inaugural Assistant Professor, Integrative Career and Capstone Learning at the University of the Fraser Valley. She also holds teaching positions in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Educational Studies department and in Douglas College's Career Development Practitioner Program. Finally, she currently serves as Chair of CERIC, a Canadian charitable organization that advances education and research in career counselling and career development, in order to increase the economic and social well-being of Canadians.

JP Michel partners with career advisors to unlock new career possibilities for confused students. JP’s work in leadership and career development helped him create the Challenge mindset, an approach to career exploration now used in hundreds of schools and postsecondary institutions. Over 50,000 have used the Challenge Cards to look beyond job titles and broaden their horizons. JP is a TEDx speaker, has a masters degree in industrial-organizational psychology and is the recipient of the 2022 Outstanding Career Leader award from the Career Professionals of Canada.

We'll be dropping new articles in the #CareeringAroundTheWorld series via the newsletter throughout the year - if you are interested in sharing your perspective on the #Careers landscape in your country (outside the UK), please do get in touch! 🤳

Photo by Igor Kyryliuk on Unsplash

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