Work Culture and Labour Market for Expats in Canada

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: December 2014

Work Culture

Generally, your Canadian work colleagues are likely to be reserved towards you at first, but they should soon open up as they get to know you. They are less vocal and more tactful than their southern neighbours.

There are slight but important differences in work practices between French- and English-speaking Canadians. The Québécois and those in other French-speaking areas are generally more formal in the workplace, normally addressing each other by title and surname. Their meetings tend to be more hierarchical; seniors workers have the most input and make most of the decisions. Naturally, if your company has dealings with French speakers, your business card should either be in French or bilingual.

Workplaces are less formal in the anglophone parts of the country, with employees usually on first-name terms. Business meetings are more relaxed and informal, and there is less deference to superiors – everyone’s contribution is appreciated. However, meetings also tend to be less structured.

It is important to be polite at work, especially in an office environment. The dress code is business casual for general work, and more formal for important meetings.  It is important to be punctual as lateness is considered a discourtesy and a waste of people’s time. Informal conversation is kept to a minimum during meetings.

Labour Market

Thanks mostly to the government’s sound fiscal policies, the Canadian economy has emerged from the global recession well and quickly returned to good shape. Canada’s GDP has grown in all but one quarter since 2009; growth in the last quarter was 0.7%. The unemployment rate in December 2014 was at 6.6%, which is some way below the world average and the lowest it has been since 2009. Unemployment is lowest, at around 4-5%, in the booming Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. People do have a harder time finding work in peripheral regions such as Nunavut and Newfoundland & Labrador, where unemployment is around 13%, though few expats move to these regions.

These economic indicators suggest that it is worthwhile considering a move to Canada for work. The sectors with the most jobs available are finance, ICT and other technology-related areas. Despite what the prime minister and others have claimed recently, there is not a serious labour shortage in Canada. Nevertheless, there are positions available, and finding work – especially in the Prairie Provinces as indicated above – should not be too difficult. One of the reasons why labour shortages have not been as acute as they might have been since 2008 are that many expats have been taken on, using the Temporary Foreign Workers scheme.

For more information on immigration procedures and working conditions in Canada, see Working for Expats.




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