As part of our efforts to support economic development and social prosperity across Canada, Magnet works with labour market information experts, AI technology, and others to provide tools and resources that enable a stronger understanding of changing skills needs and inform evidence-based responses.
Our conversation with Suzanne Spiteri of the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC) outlines why these system-level insights are critical, including for underrepresented groups.
Labour Market Information (LMI) is a valuable tool job seekers and employers use to help guide career decisions and change workplace and hiring policies.
LMI includes information on wages and salaries, job trends, duties related to a role, skill requirements, and working conditions. These data points all help individuals make informed decisions about their careers.
However, for people with disabilities looking for work in Canada, LMI data is often out-of-date with limited information, affecting their ability to obtain accessible and fulfilling careers that meet their needs.
According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), 22% of Canadians aged 15 or older have one or more physical, sensory, cognitive or mental health-related disabilities. The survey also shows that adults with disabilities have lower employment rates than those without disabilities.
With Canada facing a labour shortage across the country, ensuring that LMI accurately depicts the job market for people with disabilities can improve hiring and retention efforts in the workforce.
Suzanne Spiteri is a Research Lead at the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC) who specializes in the labour market outcomes of under-represented groups. According to Spiteri, the scope of LMI data about and for people with disabilities in Canada is limited compared to the data on people without.
“The main source of LMI for people with disabilities is the CSD,” she said, referring to the Canadian Survey on Disability, which collects information about Canadian youth and adults whose lives are affected due to long-term conditions or health problems. “It’s basically the only source, and it comes out once every five years, so it’s not frequent, it’s not timely.”
This two-year lag between the survey being conducted and the data becoming available makes it difficult to accurately compare the trends over time and develop policy intervention practices.
Spiteri also points out that the survey excludes people living in institutions, collective dwellings, First Nation reserves, and Canadian Armed Forces bases from participating, which only partially represents the entire community.
To improve the current LMI system and better serve the needs of people with disabilities, Spiteri believes that increasing the frequency of the CSD would help produce more timely, up-to-date information.
“If we were to do the survey every two years, I think that means we would have more reliable information to work with,” she said. “That would give us a better snapshot of the situation.”
She also proposed integrating qualitative data, such as lived experiences, into the survey to ensure all voices were included.
“Without speaking to people that policies would impact the most, there is a limit to what quantitative data can do,” said Spiteri. “We can speculate what people living with disabilities might hope for from an employer, but there’s no way to tell unless you look at, for example, academic research, but Canada has not done that research.”
To improve LMI data collection, Spiteri encourages stakeholders and partners to advocate for closing the data gap through more frequent surveys and research.
“Qualitative research is something that a lot of partner organizations can undertake,” she said. “And I think that the more pieces we put together, we can get a better understanding of what the situation is for a lot of folks.”
One of the first steps would be knowing what people who identify as living with disabilities need to know in terms of LMI. According to Spiteri, one of the most common accommodations people with disabilities request is flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid or remote work.
“We’re in a really unique moment where we still have the capacity in a lot of places to offer these flexible work arrangements,” she said. “But that information is not being communicated to people who might be looking for that kind of workplace.”
Spiteri adds that making that kind of information accessible to people living with disabilities could help ease their transition back into the workforce. “We have this huge population of people that is just completely underutilized, not able to work—not because they are physically unable to—but they are not able to find meaningful work in their fields.”
Closing the information gap with quality LMI will be crucial in empowering Canadians with disabilities to obtain meaningful career opportunities in the short and long term.