The WORK & Abilities Blog

The blog for work inclusion professionals!

Labor Shortage Solution: Inclusion


When it comes to employment in Canada, the labour shortage is one of the hot topics. In the past few weeks, many articles on the subject have been published. Some even offer solutions.[i] The situation could be related to an inversion of the age pyramid and the aging population. The problem has been known for many years. The subject began to interest us in the early 2000s,[ii]but only now we are witnessing the effects. Baby-boomers are retiring in droves and certain people are calling the situation a “demographic disaster”.[iii]

Job Vacancies

The demographic situation has resulted in job vacancies in many Canadian provinces. Gérald Fillion, an economic journalist at Radio-Canada, presented relevant data from Statistics Canada: 470,000 projected job openings in Canada and more than 90% of the positions divided between four Canadian provinces (Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta).[iv] The openings would be due to employers’ inability to find candidates who meet their expectations.

Good News for Job Seekers

The news, although disappointing for companies in some sectors, helps more people find jobs. Moreover, the unemployment rate is at historic lows and the participation rate for workers 55 and over and immigrants is increasing. However, some groups remain excluded from the labor market; For example, people in a disabling situation find it more difficult integrating into the labor market (44.6% participation rate). By way of comparison, people without disabilities in Quebec have an 80% participation rate.[v] Many factors can explain the significant difference between people in a disabling situation and those who are not, but exclusion is often related to employer perceptions about differences or a work environment’s partial or complete unsuitability to a person’s situation. In short, it’s important to change perceptions about people in a disabling situation and set up the workplace so it fosters inclusion, regardless of a person’s conditions.

People in a Disabling Situation: Part of the Solution and Added Value to a Company

Disability due to a physical, mental or intellectual condition is often limited to certain types of environment or tasks. Incredibly simple changes or strategies usually can be implemented to overcome disabling situations. Sensitivity to a person experiencing limitations’ special situation helps to adjust the integration period, tasks and workplace. Often, it takes very little. For example, a slightly longer period or altered setup for training, different approaches to perform tasks, customized equipment or more frequent work supervision (at least to start).[vi] To achieve results, it may be necessary to work with an employment counselor, occupational therapist or other professional with a thorough knowledge of the person’s situation.

In a work environment adapted to their situation, challenged people will succeed as much as and sometimes more than people without limitations. People in disabling situations are not only a labour force; they bring a different point of view to the workplace.

Moreover, in addition to their skills, their unique situational awareness is a great benefit for any organization. They experience unique challenges because the world isn’t made for them; therefore, a person in a wheelchair knows best how buildings, sidewalks and transportation are hindrances. In the workplace, they can foresee the challenges and issues that a client in the same situation could experience and may propose solutions and improvements to simplify their daily work and improve accessibility for customers experiencing similar situations.

A labor shortage context benefits employees, because they can easily change jobs. Working for the same employer for forty years may become more and more the exception. However, according to the Office des personnes handicapées du Québec, “hiring disabled people [would help] create stable staff”; moreover, hiring disabled people could increase other employees’ loyalty within the company. Another reason to have a person in a disabling situation on a team: they create a sense of collaboration.[vii] Thus, there are several advantages from which to choose for making a disabled person part of the team.

Career Development Professionals: Employer’s Partner of Choice

Career Development Personnel (e.g., Employment and Guidance Counselors and Employability Professionals) also prepare individuals experiencing a hard time entering the labor market by working on their skills (knowledge, know-how and life skills) and interests, helping them integrate and keep a job. They can even contribute to work station customization or organize tasks so a person in a disabling situation can perform to their full potential.

Perfection Halts Recruitment

Regardless of a career development professionals’ work, the fact remains that job seekers often face job offers that appear to target the “perfect profile”.[viii] Stringent requirements can push away an interested disabled candidate out of the fear that they don’t have what it takes, when realistically; they probably would make a good candidate for the job and for the employer. Moreover, we can add prejudice towards people with disabilities and perceptions about their ability to do a job like a person without a disability. It probably would be necessary to address the recruitment process and work differently. In short, employers would choose a person according to their skills and potential and not expect that every skill they desire is mastered at the start of a job.[ix]

Overcoming Difficulties through Collaboration

The inclusion of people living with functional limitations would certainly solve some of the labor shortage problems. We just need to be creative and rethink our ways, structures and work environments to adjust to specific situations and the reality of people excluded from the labor market. There are many solutions to overcome labor shortage, but the inclusion of people experiencing limitations is definitely part of the answer. Their integration as well as that of other groups excluded from the labor market requires collaboration with all the actors in the labor market: job seekers, employers, career development professionals, etc. In other words, everyone, including you and me…

Examples of Successful Employment Integration

CBC news (2014). Business owner makes money by hiring disabled workers, in CBC News: The National, [online],

Workforce planning board of York region (2017). Hiring a worker with a disability – Leah’s Story, dans WFPlanningBoard, [online],

CAMO pour personnes handicapées (2016). Réussir sa vie professionnelle avec une perte de vision, [online], – Succeed in one’s career with vision loss.

Further Information

Steve Paikin (2014). Mark Wafer: Enabling the disabled, in “The agenda with Steve Paikin”, [online],

Bradshaw, L. (2017). Disability vs. the Workplace, [online],

A collaboration of Marc-Olivier Beaulieu, Board Secretary of L’Association québécoise des professionnels du développement de carrière (Quebec Association of Career Development professionals) and Undergraduate Student in Career Development at UQAM.

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[i] Lavallée, H. (2018). Pénurie de main-d’œuvre au Québec: une “hécatombe démographique” en cause, Radio-Canada, [online], (Page accessed on July 20, 2018). – Labor shortage in Quebec: the effect of a “demographic disaster”.

[ii] A. McDaniel, S. (2003). Politiques sociales, changements économiques et démographiques et vieillissement de la population canadienne : leurs interactions. Cahier québécois de démographie, 32(1), 76-104. – Social politics, economic and demographic changes and the aging population.

[iii] Lavallée, H. (2018). Pénurie de main-d’œuvre au Québec : une “hécatombe démographique” en cause,  Radio-Canada, [online], (Page accessed on July 20, 2018). – Labor shortage in Quebec : the effect of a “demographic disaster”.

[iv] Fillion, G. (April 13, 2018). On manque sérieusement de travailleur!, Radio-Canada, [online], (Page accessed July 24, 2018). – We have a serious lack of workers.

[v] Homsy, M. (2018). Marché du travail: le Québec a fait des pas de géants, mais le travail est loin d’être terminé, Les Affaires, [online],–le-quebec-a-fait-des-pas-de-geants-mais-le-travail-est-loin-d-etre-termine/603287  (Page accessed July 24, 2018). – Labor market: Quebec made giant strides, but the work is far from over.

[vi] CAMO pour personnes handicapées. (2016). Réussir sa vie professionnelle avec une perte de vision, [online], (Page accessed July24, 2018). – Succeeding in one’s career with vision loss.

[vii] Office des personnes handicapées du Québec. (2004). Une personne handicapée; Un atout pour l’entreprise, [online], (Page accessed July 25, 2018). – A disabled person; an asset for the company.

[viii] Radio-Canada. (2018). Pénurie de main-d’œuvre, entrevue avec Josée Landry, émission Le 15-18, [online], (Page accessed July 25, 2018). – Labor shortage, interview with Josée Landry, le 15-18 Show.

[ix] Desautel, G. (2018). La solution à la pénurie de main-d’œuvre passe par une stratégie de développement de compétences. Revue Gestion, [online], (Page accessed July 25, 2018). – The solution to the labor shortage is the result of a skills development strategy.

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