Alberta should open its doors to job seekers with labour mobility reforms that will boost its economic fortunes post-COVID, says a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.
In Alberta's Opportunity: The Ins, Outs and Benefits of Greater Job Mobility, authors Trevor Tombe and Daniel Schwanen quantify the potential gains of easing labour mobility barriers across occupations, sectors and regions, and explore how making it easier for people to move to Alberta can aid in economic recovery.
Mobility allows Canadians to ply their trade, expand their businesses or acquire valuable goods and services that may not be available locally, across provincial boundaries. When Canadians can move from one province to another with minimal barriers, the country as a whole benefits.
"Provinces have removed many of the mobility restrictions through previous agreements, like the Canadian Free Trade Agreement and the New West Partnership Trade Agreement," say Tombe and Schwanen. "More needs to done, however, as Alberta currently has the greatest absolute number of exceptions of any province in these agreements."
Examples of barriers include regulations that make it difficult for a person from outside a jurisdiction to have their credentials or experience recognized inside that jurisdiction, or to conduct business within it, and the financial costs of moving to a different region.
The authors tally up the potential gains of easing entry for job seekers: "For each 1,000 additional workers that move into Alberta in response to lower migration costs, we estimate Alberta's economy grows by $141 million. And if migration costs fall by 1 percent across the board, we estimate gains of nearly $9 billion," says Tombe.
The authors propose a two-part strategy to promote economic revival and long-term growth in Alberta. The first is ensuring Alberta residents can make the best of economic opportunities from within the province, which includes opening trade to and from the rest of Canada and the world. This productive use of talent ensures higher incomes, which itself attracts more talent.
The other key measure is to address obstacles that other Canadians might face in moving to Alberta. "The province can promote economic revival and long-term economic growth by ensuring that it is the most welcoming jurisdiction for talented workers and entrepreneurs from across Canada," say the authors.
Trevor Tombe is associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary and research fellow at the School of Public Policy.
Daniel Schwanen is an award-winning economist with a passion for international economic policy. He is spearheading Institute programs focused on the link between Canada's international trade and investment policy and Canadians' standards of living.