There is No Skilled Labour Shortage

One of the more (I find) annoying claims made by right wing thought is that we currently need foreign labour to fill our labour market because we do not have enough skilled labour. It is also claimed that we do not have enough general labour to fill our current demand for it. I’ve always been quite skeptical of this claim and rightfully so, it’s untrue. I’d wager there has never been a shortage of labour, but that there has been a shortage of affordable labour.

At this time there are companies claiming they need labour brought in from the Third World in order to fill demand. (They don’t use the term Third World, they prefer to use the term “affordable labour market”.) In truth what they really want is to pay below the market value for labour. They speak very highly of the market when it comes to justifying their exploitation and private ownership of the means of production and the social product, but they quickly forget all this when the market doesn’t provide them with what they want.

There are a few points I want to make here. First, that it is a myth that there is a shortage of general labour and that there is a shortage of skilled labour. I think it’s important differentiate between the two when it comes to unemployment across each sector. Second, I’d like to explain why there is a false claim made of a general labour of shortage. Both of these figures will be covering primarily the year 2012.

First let us deal with the often repeated claim by the right wing that unemployment is a choice. Usually this is taken to the extreme by the Republican Party.

Next we will deal with the argument that there are not enough people going to school to get a skill to take to the labour market in order to justify the importation of it.

We can see here quite clearly that the skilled labour pool is great, there is no shortage at. There is no “need” to increase the pool of skilled labour. This data also tells us some other things as well. For one, the more education a person has the less unemployment they suffer. Second it shows that after the Global Economic Collapse of Capitalism the unemployment rate among skilled labour has increased. Of course this is not to be unexpected; economic collapse affects everyone (who doesn’t get a bail out).

It also shows that the demand for overseas skilled labour is now less valid than it was before the collapse. Interestingly that call for foreign skilled labour is now greater than it was in 2007. There has been a great unjustified spike in the call for it.

The question now remains before us: Why claim the need for imported labour when there is no shortage? The answer lies in the essence of capitalism itself, the need to lower the cost of production. This is an essential feature capitalism called competition. As each producer seeks to eliminate his competition he continually finds new ways to decrease the cost of the production of his commodity. He can’t sell above the average price or he will be defeated in competition. The only other option is to reduce the cost production. This will almost always manifest itself in the reduction of wages to workers or the replacing of workers with more efficient machinery.

Whenever a capitalist finds a way to sell his product more cheaply all other capitalists must do the same in order to compete, or else they will go out of business. This is the real driving force of innovation in capitalism. A capitalist cannot choose not to do the same (if not better) than his competitors. As we can see this is built right into the very nature of capitalism, the capitalist couldn’t do otherwise even if he wanted to.

There are limits to how far one can impoverish the working class through the reduction of wages. Marx said that the capitalist cannot play less than amount necessary for the working class to reproduce itself. In other words if you pay them less than the amount necessary for him to actually survive, he won’t show up for work. This is a barrier that was eventually overcome by exporting labour overseas to cheaper labour markets as well as using migrant labour. Immigrant labour, even skilled labour, can be imported from the Third World based on work contracts. In fact an entire coal mine in Canada is all migrant labourers from China. They literally state, “The employer says there were no qualified Canadians to do the specialized work at the underground mine.”[1]

This is proof capital and labour doesn’t have the same interest as libertarians constantly assert. The boss and the worker are not on the same side. The very nature of the system itself requires the capitalist to squeeze more and more blood out of the worker every increasing his exploitation of him.

We don’t have a “refusal to work” problem, or a “shortage of skilled labour” problem. What he have in truth, is capitalism.

Unemployed far outnumber job openings in every sector (Economic Policy Institute)

Workers don’t lack skills, they lack work (Economic Policy Institute)

[1] B.C. mine to hire only Chinese temporary workers for years