Pity the little guy

300,000 jobs unfilled in small business sector
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/07/2001

Nearly one out of every 20 jobs in small- and medium-size businesses are going unfilled, hurting employers and the economy as a whole, according to a new study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Almost half of respondents (47.8 per cent) to the survey of more than 8,000 firms across the country, say they are having trouble finding staff and 67 per cent of all companies that hired in the last year said the difficulty in hiring has slowed their growth.

“Given that small- and medium-sized business accounts for more than half of GDP in this country, this is a serious economic issue,” said Catherine Swift, president of the federation.

Wage expectations are a major reason for hiring difficulties, but 17.2 per cent of firms said they don’t know where or how to find skilled people. Among the possible reasons cited for the dearth of skilled talent: the wrong type of training provided by local schools; people choosing to be on social assistance instead of working; and losing people to competitors.

As a result, firms often end up hiring less experienced people and are forced to rely more heavily on overtime. Failing that, firms are being forced to turn down growth opportunities.

With 250,000 to 300,000 jobs going unfilled, construction and business services employers have been having the hardest time finding workers. Almost eight per cent of all jobs in small construction companies go unfilled.

The CFIB says payroll taxes effect SMEs disproportionately and should therefore be reduced as a possible solution to part of the problem. The federation also calls for improved communication between business owners and educators, the promotion of more co-op and apprenticeship education programs, improved labour mobility, and the reduction of barriers to immigration.

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