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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Go North, American Workers, Go North

A link to a very interesting article was posted in this thread over at Isaac Brock (hat tip to Badger):
Need job, can’t travel to Alberta:  Washington wants Ottawa to make it easier for U.S. workers to fill vacancies there.

In a nutshell, Canada needs workers, Americans need jobs.  As mentioned in a previous post, Canada's unemployment rate is well below that of the U.S. and in some Canadian provinces industries are screaming for skilled labor.  Well, some of the potential workers are sitting right there down south cooling their heels at home or in the unemployment lines.  Sounds like a fairly straightforward situation that two old friends ought to be able to work out over a cup of coffee and a donut.

It's not.  In fact, one Canadian HR manager said that of all the foreigners they are hiring right now (and they are hiring quite a few) Americans are the hardest to bring on board.  Canadian industry is complaining about government red tape and the difficulty of getting U.S. workers' skill and credentials recognized.  Canada has a system of "formal apprenticeship and certification system for many skilled trades" but the U.S. has no equivalent.

This surprised me because I had thought that such things were covered under NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement).  Apparently not.  It seems to be easy enough for a manager (something the Quebec companies I was talking to recently assured me) but not for workers.

Both governments are making noises about rectifying this.  "Business leaders say Canadian and U.S. officials are looking for ways to enable Canadian companies to hire U.S. workers and recognize their trade skills so they can work legally in Canada."  But surely some sort of reciprocity will be on the table as well.  After all, if Canada makes it easier for Americans to work in Canada then one would expect the U.S. to do the same for Canadians.  These days Canada has more leverage in these talks.  The proverbial shoe is on the other foot with Canada being the prime destination nation sitting next to a potential sending country (the U.S.) with a pool of unemployed workers that can probably be had for a reasonable cost. Note as well that this is an election year in the U.S. and it would be helpful to the current administration to get those unemployment numbers down before November.

Of course this raises the usual debates in both countries.  Shouldn't Canada be training its own people to take these jobs instead of lowering its standards and bringing in Americans to "steal" them?  In the U.S. might some political parties make political hay over the fact that the U.S. is doing such a poor job of providing work for its own people that it has to start exporting them?  Not to mention that the U.S. tax code makes it very difficult for Americans to work abroad - it is designed to punish emigrants.  If some of these skilled U.S. workers do go north, they are in for a big and rather unpleasant surprise when tax time comes around in the U.S.

A situation worth watching.  If there are any Canadians reading this, I'd love to get your take on it.


Anonymous said...

Doughnut. :-)

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Ah, thanks for catching that. When I was in fourth grade back in the U.S I actually won the country spelling bee. It's been downhill ever since :-)