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Both Canadian workers and American employers are casting a wider net when it comes to employment opportunities.Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press

At the start of the pandemic, many speculated that the rise of remote work would create a more continental labour market, with employers on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border competing for the same talent.

A year and a half later, that hypothesis is yet to come to fruition. But that may soon change, as both Canadian workers and American employers are casting a wider net when it comes to employment opportunities.

According to a recent study conducted by talent solutions provider Robert Half, 39 per cent of American employers surveyed in June had expanded the geographical reach of their talent searches, and 32 per cent advertised fully remote positions.

“Historically, a lot of Canadians were inclined to work for big organizations in the U.S. – but post-COVID, and with more flexibility around remote work, I strongly feel that it has accelerated,” says Hiren Joshi, the branch manager for Robert Half Toronto.

At the same time, Mr. Joshi says, the rise of remote work has caused more American employers to look across the border to fill their talent needs, especially in the technology industry.

“It’s a nearshore market, as we call it – and the skills are available,” Mr. Joshi says. “Even with the conversion rate, it’s a lot cheaper for them, so they have really expanded their boundaries.”

There are also signs that the next generation of Canadian employees are more open to working remotely, and less interested in relocating. According to a recent study conducted by employer branding agency Universum, 76 per cent of Canadian students are open to working remotely, while only 26 per cent are open to changing locations.

Jason Kipps, managing director of Universum Canada, says students also demonstrate a preference for working for a local employer, but remain open to remote opportunities with employers based elsewhere. According to the study, 76 per cent of students would prefer working for an organization founded in Canada, but 67 per cent want to work for an organization that has international operations.

“The first choice would be a Canadian-based international firm; second choice would be an international firm, regardless of whether it’s in Canada or not,” he says.

Mr. Kipps, however, doesn’t believe many American employers are actively recruiting Canadian-based remote workers.

“I don’t think American companies have any idea what talent is available in Canada,” he says.

That too may be changing, says Marc Pavlopoulos, chief executive officer of Syndesus, a company that enables American employers to tap into the Canadian talent pool. He notes demand for Canadian remote talent has skyrocketed among American employers since the start of the pandemic.

Over the past 18 months, more Canadians have been applying for remote positions with American firms, Mr. Pavlopoulos says. At the same time, those who had previously relocated south of the border are also returning home in large numbers, bringing their jobs with them.

For those workers, wanting to be closer to home during a pandemic – while still maintaining their high-profile U.S.-based jobs – was a major factor in relocating, but the political situation in the U.S. also came up in the company’s polling as a reason for doing so.

Mr. Pavlopoulos explains that historically, Canadian students – especially those in STEM fields such as finance, technology and engineering – felt pressured to spend the early years of their career in the United States.

“In previous times, you had to make the pilgrimage down to the U.S., but you may not have to any more,” he says. “Because of all these trends, there’s more reason for U.S. companies to hire Canadians, and I think it’s going to spike.”

If it does, the influx of remote work opportunities for foreign employers could ultimately drive up wages in those fields. At the same time, Mr. Pavlopoulos says, Canadian companies are enjoying record-breaking levels of venture funding, which may help them match compensation packages offered by American competitors.

He adds that a more continental talent marketplace will ultimately serve to drive up the country’s tax base, and keep some of Canada’s most talented workers on this side of the border.

“It’s a half ‘brain drain’ – you’re doing work for the Americans, but you’re getting paid a serious six-figure salary in Canada, so some of the Canadians who would have gone to the U.S. aren’t going, and some of the Canadians in the U.S. are going home and taking their job with them,” he says.

“Canadian salaries will get bid up because the American firms are in Canada, so for the people in tech, the amount of taxes that come from them should be going up dramatically.”

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