Healthcare and Social Assistance
ISSUES & CHALLENGES: A 2006 report on the 10-year outlook for the Canadian labour market stated that the largest number of occupations showing signs of shortages at the national level is found in the health sector. Pressures are particularly acute for physicians, therapy and assessment professionals (e.g., physiotherapists), head nurses and nurse aides. Other health occupations, such as registered nursing assistants, audiology technicians, physiotherapy technicians and medical radiation technologists, are also under pressure.
On the other hand, supply growth in many of these occupations has been relatively weak. Canadian health professionals are ageing, particularly physicians and nurses. There is a 3 to 10 year time lag between the labour market entries of health professionals into the labour market. Immigrants make up a significant share of the Canadian health workforce, with more than 37% of all physicians and about 20% of all registered nurses being foreign-born. However, the rate of integration of foreign-trained health professionals has decreased tremendously (e.g., foreign-trained physicians made up 30.5% of Canadian physicians in 1980. In 2005, they made up 9%). With a large immigrant population in Ottawa that is ageing, practitioners with multilingual skills are going to be in even more demand.
Technology is changing the way we deliver health, particularly electronic health informatics and distribution. The top labour issues in e-health are: not enough candidates/qualified applicants; candidates do not have the required competencies; and the compensation offered for the e-Health position was not attractive enough. There is also a growing market for entrepreneurship in the health sector. With an ageing population, there is immense scope for ageing products such as assistive devices, personal support and nursing, long-term and short-term care facilities.
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: Exploring ways to increase access to healthcare jobs by internationally-educated health professionals is a key strategy. Entry-to-practice rates need to be increased substantially – and a combination of training solutions and engaging with stakeholders to review licensing processes may be an option. Bridging programs have been set up for foreign-trained healthcare professionals; however, licensure and employment rates have to be verified. Anecdotal evidence suggests that although bridging programs may increase licensure rates, they do not tend to increase employment post-licensure, thus not affecting the labour supply positively.
Considering that Ottawa is a technology hub, the city could consider playing a more strategic role in attracting health technology businesses to the region. However, the appropriate training has to be available, to train the next generation of e-health and health technology workers. Further, entrepreneurship training and multilingual skill / cultural competence training has to be made available.
The Sector Summary: Health Care and Social Assistance was further developed in October 2011 to provide in-depth analysis of labour market issues.