OECD Secretary-General

Special Board Meeting of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Montreal, Canada, 10 June 2014 – 11h05

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to this special Board meeting of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. I’d like to take this opportunity to present our outlook for the global and Canadian economy, which I will address more concretely tomorrow at the launch of the OECD 2014 Economic Survey of Canada.  

The global recovery is strengthening, but major challenges remain

Today, I have some relatively good news about the global economy. After six long, difficult years, the major advanced economies are finally building positive momentum.

Although the four cylinders of the global economy’s growth engine – trade, credit, investment and the emerging-market economies – are still running below full speed, there are encouraging signs that activity may finally be picking up.

Greater risk appetite, healthy corporate balance sheets and strong profit growth outside the euro area, coupled with a decline in policy uncertainty in the US, all point to an increase in investment in the coming months. Overall, we expect the global recovery to gather strength during the remainder of this year.

In spite of this slightly brighter outlook, major challenges remain. Policymakers will have to deal with the heaviest legacies of the crisis – slow growth, high unemployment, growing inequalities and a loss of trust.

Although these are sources of concern in Canada, they are less so than on most OECD countries, as Canada has weathered the financial crisis better .


Canada is exiting the crisis on solid footing

At a time when OECD economies have been struggling to gain traction, Canada has enjoyed a relatively robust recovery. GDP growth is expected to accelerate further to 2.7% in 2015, supported by accommodative monetary policy, the moderation of fiscal tightening, and strong export performance.

Canada has also preformed relatively well in our Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). This initiative measures and compares skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments – exactly the sort of skills workers today need.  

Canada, along with only six other countries, scores above the OECD average in terms of the proportion of its population that can complete tasks which involve solving multi-step problems in computer environments using different applications.

In literacy, Canada is ahead of Germany and the USA – matching the OECD average along with Korea and the Czech Republic. In numeracy, Canada's score was slightly below the OECD average. This highlights some areas for improvement. These are indeed great achievements that reflect significant resilience, but this should be no cause for complacency. Canada is still facing some important structural challenges.


Skills shortages, in certain areas and sectors also raise some concern

Skills shortages are one area where progress can be made. Although our analysis shows that there is no generalised skills shortage in Canada, there are shortages in some sectors and regions.

In particular, there is a dearth of university-educated Canadian-born workers in engineering, management and health care and of skilled tradespersons, especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

The government has taken significant steps to address skills gaps. We expect the Canada Job Grant, for example, to facilitate a better alignment of training and job opportunities by putting employers in the driver’s seat.

To further support these efforts, tomorrow I will launch the Employment and Skills Strategies in Canada, which focuses on how education and training systems in Ontario and Québec can be better aligned with local employers’ needs.

We also recommend improving the internal mobility of workers to address localised skills shortages. For example, standardising certifications for apprenticeships at the national level would allowing people to finish their training in another part of the country. This could boost the completion rate from 50%. Similarly, further reforms to the Employment Insurance system could incentivize low-income seasonal workers in rural areas to seek year-round employment.

Many young people could increase their earning potential and stabilize their employment prospects by pursuing apprenticeships and post-secondary qualifications at colleges and polytechnics, rather than university degrees. Improved career guidance services would be a cost-effective way to better align the supply of skilled workers with the private sector’s needs.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Overall, Canada’s economy is in a strong position compared to most OECD countries. And its citizens enjoy one of the highest standards of well-being. The challenge is to secure this positive environment and strong social and economic model for the future.  

And the OECD is here to help. Through interactions with our Member and Partner countries, our consultations with social partners, and various publications, the OECD aims to help governments design, execute and evaluate ‘better policies for better lives’.

Thank you, I look forward to our exchange of views!


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