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Four-day work week gaining mainstream momentum in corporate Canada: poll

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By Brett Bundale

A four-day work week may be gaining mainstream momentum in corporate Canada as workplaces continue to fine tune post-pandemic schedules and working conditions, new research suggests.

A survey by recruitment firm Robert Half found 91 per cent of senior managers polled said they would support a four-day work week for their team.

Most managers also anticipate their company will transition to a shorter working week within the next five years.

Among workers polled, nearly three-quarters said they would put in four 10-hour days in exchange for an extra day off a week.

Offering workers the option of a four-day work week could support employee retention, productivity and wellbeing, the research found.

“Giving people the autonomy to create their own schedule demonstrates a level of trust and that has shown to really boost morale and productivity,” said Mike Shekhtman, senior regional director with Robert Half.

While shift workers such as nurses and police officers have long worked condensed weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic shook up workplace culture and the ubiquity of working a 9-5 day, five days a week in an office.

“It shifted the work paradigm and the way we think and operate,” Shekhtman said. “We’re at a pivot point where people are trying to reimagine with a blank canvas what the best model would look like to support the work and expectations of a position but also align with what people are looking for.”

The 9-to-5 work day, and later the five-day work week, was widely adopted during the Industrial Revolution.

It hasn’t changed much since, said Sandeep Aujla, CEO of Multilevel Leadership Consulting Inc.

“We moved from the industrial era to the information era and we never changed,” she said. “But the pandemic has forced us to reconsider our work schedule expectations.”

While a four-day work week might be the right fit for some people and organizations, Aujla said it’s not a one-size fits all solution.

“I don’t believe in global solutions. I personally really believe that flexibility is the key,” she said. “The solution is to think creatively and say, ‘Let’s meet people where they are at,’ as opposed to imposing a blanket solution on everybody.”

A four-day work week can mean two different things: a compressed week or a reduced week.

In a compressed model, employees generally work ten hours per day for four days per week.

Many employees are already working 10-hour days, said Sarah McVanel, chief recognition officer at human resources firm Greatness Magnified.

“A lot of people are working those longer hours anyway. They put their kids to bed and then they get back on the computer,” she said. “Lots of professionals are working too many hours and that’s what’s burning them out.”

Reducing a work week to four days, even if each day were officially 10 hours rather than eight, would help the physical health and mental wellbeing of many workers, McVanel said.

The Robert Half survey found 78 per cent of workers polled said they would have no problem unplugging on their extra day off.

Meanwhile, in a reduced week, both the total number of workdays and the total work hours are reduced, such as eight-hours a day and four days a week.

A non-profit group called the 4 Day Week Global advocates for what it calls the 100-80-100 model – 100 per cent of the pay, 80 per cent of the time, and 100 per cent of the productivity.

It’s launched a pilot in the United Kingdom involving more than 70 organizations. A survey conducted at the half-way point of the experiment found 88 per cent of participating organizations reported the four-day work week worked well for their enterprise, according to a report by the International Labour Organization.

Also, 49 per cent reported improved productivity while 46 per cent reported achieving the same level of productivity despite a reduced work week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2023.

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Immigration increase alone won’t fix the labour market, experts say

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By Rosa Saba

Experts say Canada’s plan to increase immigration may ease some pressures in the labour market, but bigger changes are needed to ensure new permanent residents are matched with the jobs that most need filling.

With the unemployment rate at historic lows, many companies are “starved” for workers, and new immigrants will help fill some of the need, said Ravi Jain, principal at Jain Immigration Law and co-founder of the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association.

The federal government’s new immigration plan calls for the admission of 1.45 million more new permanent residents over the next three years, beginning with 465,000 in 2023 and reaching 500,000 in 2025. That’s compared with 341,000 in 2019.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the plan is intended to help attract labour in key sectors, including healthcare, skilled trades, manufacturing and technology.

“It’s clear that there are real gaps, real demands, and real needs,” said Naomi Alboim, a senior policy fellow at Toronto Metropolitan University and a former Ontario Deputy Minister of Immigration.

But upping immigration levels is just one way to begin addressing those needs, she said — the government’s plan should be part of a wider initiative to address temporary workers, international students and a larger range of jobs.

Change is needed to ensure new Canadians are well-matched to jobs that maximize their skills, qualifications and experience, said Alboim.

Recent immigrants are less likely to see their skills and education utilized than Canadian-born workers, Statistics Canada said, and new and recent immigrants are overrepresented in certain industries, including transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and food services.

Government policies have created a mismatch between the specific skills employers are looking for and the skills of immigrants being approved, Toronto immigration lawyer Sergio Karas said.

Some of this mismatch begins with international students, said Karas. Though many international students plan to become permanent residents after they graduate, many of them aren’t in programs for jobs that are in demand by immigration policies, like healthcare or trades, he said.

International students and temporary foreign workers (TFWs) have made up an increasingly large portion of Canada’s economic immigrants, or those selected for their contribution to the economy, who made up more than half of recent immigrants in 2021, Statistics Canada said.

In 2020, 67 per cent of the country’s principal applicants in the economic class were previously temporary foreign workers or international students, the agency said.

But that 67 per cent is a relatively small portion of all the temporary workers and international students in Canada, said Alboim. Canada had 777,000 TFW work permit holders in 2021, and almost 622,000 international students that year, Statistics Canada said.

Canada’s dependence on temporary workers to fill long-term gaps is a huge problem, said Alboim. It creates little incentive to improve wages, conditions or supports for temporary workers, she said.

Federal immigration policy seems laser-focused on jobs requiring higher levels of training and education, said Alboim, a barrier to permanent residency for many TFWs and international students.

That’s despite the fact that much of Canada’s labour shortage is in jobs that require lower levels of education or experience, jobs that many temporary workers and students take on, said Alboim.

The federal government should expand its scope to prioritize more of these kinds of jobs, she said.

“There are way, way, way more people here now with temporary status that will never be able to transition to permanent residency, assuming they want to, unless the rules for permanent residency are changed to recognize that we actually need them too,” she said.

However, not all the onus lies on the federal government, Jain said. One ongoing problem has been immigrants’ credentials not being recognized in Canada, and while there have been some recent changes aimed at improving that, more needs to be done, he said. These credentials are the jurisdiction of provinces and territories, not Ottawa.

Provincial and regional immigration programs often do a better job of bringing in workers who can meet a wide range of labour needs including in lower-skill jobs, Alboim said, noting those programs are set to increase under the federal government’s plan.

A legislative amendment recently gave the minister of immigration the power to select immigrants for Express Entry programs based on specific qualities like occupation, but currently Alboim anticipates that use of that power will be focused on higher-level jobs.

“(There are) real needs at the high end, which immigration should certainly be focused on, but not exclusively,” she said.

Jain agreed.

“My worry is that if the targeted draws get too heavy, like if it’s weighted too much in terms of the proportion of people coming in, then I worry that some of these other folks will get marginalized,” he said.

“There needs to be some kind of a balance.”

— With files from Lee Berthiaume

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2023.

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Alberta

Popular roller-coaster at West Edmonton Mall amusement park to be removed

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Canada’s largest shopping centre says a popular roller-coaster at its amusement park is being removed after nearly 40 years in operation.

West Edmonton Mall’s vice-president of parks and attractions says in a statement that while the Mindbender will be missed, the mall is excited to announce it is working on new plans for the site.

The Mindbender was known as the world’s tallest and longest indoor, triple-loop roller-coaster.

In 1986, three people were killed on the roller-coaster, which forced the mall to shut it down for a year for safety modifications.

Galaxyland initially opened in 1983, but was known as Fantasyland until 1995.

The indoor amusement park partnered with Hasbro in 2022 and features attractions licensed from the franchise.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.

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