The COVID-19 global pandemic created great uncertainty for employment across Canada and internationally. News reports have noted job losses by different sectors, the unequal distribution of the impacts, and the gradual re-opening of some sectors. Victoria Agyepong, Ryan Gibson, and Ray Bollman recently published a report called “Rural Employment and Workforce Development: Impacts and Opportunities“. The report takes a rural lens to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on employment and workforce development in rural communities.
The report outlines five key impacts of COVID-19 on rural employment:
- Over March and April 2020, the COVID-19 impact on jobs has been higher in rural and small (RST) areas than in larger urban centres (LUC) but not uniformly across all provinces.
- RST employment reductions and labour and skills shortages vary across industries, economic regions and provinces.
- Reduction in RST employment has demographic dimensions: Older working women, youth and younger rural workers and senior workers are most affected.
- Rural jobs recovered during COVID-19 may not be of the same quality as pre-COVID times and needs to be better monitored.
- The small natural balance of population (births slightly greater than deaths) plus changing migration in-flows by both immigrants and migrants from urban areas may introduce new rural workforce growth dynamics which need monitoring.
The report makes six considerations for the future of rural workforce development and employment:
- Strengthen labour market standards and fund community services to maintain and improve employment quality in RST areas, especially for most affected demographics.
- Governments need to provide policies and programs to support regionally appropriate training and new trends in skill requirements to enable and sustain RST productivity.
- Develop and fund regional partnership programs to support early and on-demand absorption of skilled workers to adapt to “Future of Work”and occupational growth trends and encourage locational investment in training capacity for post secondary training outside large urban centres.
- Foster place-based strategies to make RST areas a viable choice for people to “work, earn, live and spend.”
- Workforce planning strategies and government policies need to foster inclusive economic participation of Indigenous peoples and racialized people of colour through the promotion of cross-cultural competencies and skill-bridging initiatives.
- Undertake or sponsor research and analysis on rural employment to ensure data for evidence-based decision making is available across all geographies.
Read the full report: Rural Employment and Workforce Development: Impacts and Opportunities. The report is published by the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation as part of their Rural Insights Series on COVID-19. The Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation is a national charity contributing to the revitalization and sustainability of rural communities throughout Canada.