When an employer wants to fill a vacant job, they are really looking for a set of skills to help them complete specific tasks. Until that employer can recruit a new employee, they don’t have access to the skills they need. So job vacancies can actually be thought of as skill-set vacancies: an unmet need for particular skills.

Right now in Canada, skills vacancies represent $25 billion in unrealized economic value, an increase from $15 billion in 2015. Rising job vacancy numbers, higher wages, and changes in the types of available jobs have all contributed to this increase.

Research from the Conference Board of Canada examines skill deficiencies in the workforce, what those skills are worth, and how much economic value is being lost, to help illuminate the needs and requirements for Canadian labour, education, and immigration policy-makers.

Key takeaways

  • Just 18 individual skills account for 65% of the variation in wages across occupations. This demonstrates that skills are valuable and that wages and salaries are at least partly based on the skill set or specific skills the job requires.
  • Skills come in regular groupings, commonly known as skill sets. Our skills gap analysis revealed the six most valued skills vacancies: active listening, critical thinking, reading comprehension, speaking, monitoring, and coordination.
  • Skill sets can be classified into four main groups: basic daily, social and emotional, resource management, and task and technical skills.
  • We can determine the value of skills and skill groups using the average wages and job vacancies for those occupations. This helps policy-makers and educators prioritize skills investments.
  • A lack of skills in the labour pool leads to unfilled jobs and lost economic value.

Aggregate Value of Skills Vacancies, by Skill Group


(value of skill group vacancies in 2020, $ billions) 

According to Nachum J. Gabler, senior economist, The Conference Board of Canada, “Skills vacancies are imposing an increasing burden on the overall Canadian economy.” We can estimate the value of these skill group vacancies, just as we can with individual skills, and use these values to help policy-makers and educators prioritize and direct investments to assist them in closing the skills gap.

Source: Conference Board of Canada