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The time to act to prevent a worker shortage is now, says Wade McLaughlin. (CBC)

P.E.I. is in dire need of immigrants to fill a looming worker shortage in the coming decades, a group of Island business leaders is warning.

Government figures show that 25 per cent of the workforce will disappear in the next 40 years.

"We are now in a position where it is urgent," said Wade MacLauchlan, a past president of UPEI and well-known businessman.

"Really we can't live with that. Unless we're prepared to accept a very major reduction in our standard of living. For those of us who can see this coming, and many people can, the challenge now is to act and act together."

MacLauchlan said the most likely way to be able to counter the loss of working population is through increased immigration. As an example, he praised Manitoba's efforts to bolster its rural population.

"These have been what you might call targeted efforts," he said.

"The whole community is involved: the religious community, the linguistic communities, the economic community."

P.E.I. has a similar initiative with the Francophone Immigrant Integration Project, which was launched in September by the province's francophone economic development council. Co-ordinator Angie Cormier said P.E.I. should start focusing its attention on targeting specific linguistic communities abroad.

"We know that immigrants usually speak one, two, three or four languages, and many times, French can be one of those languages," said Cormier.

"We want to make sure and exploit that as an opportunity for the community and our workforce population."

While long-term trends show a drop in the province's population, the government estimates the population will continue to grow until the year 2025.

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