COVID-19 might have changed how we worked forever and that could be a problem

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Canada’s workforce possibly forever. 

People decided to retire early, others only want to work from home and some workers decided it was a time to change careers. 

Canada’s labour shortage was already a problem before the pandemic, and now it’s getting worse and creating hiring issues for Canadian businesses.

“We cannot manage our businesses the same way that we used to because the job market is quite different today,” said Pierre Cleroux, Chief Economist with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

When the BDC interviewed Canadian companies for their labour shortage study 45 per cent said there was a lack of candidates to fill positions, 57 per cent said new hires wanted higher wages and 32 per cent of applicants also have a desire for more benefits.

The survey also found that many older Canadians decided to retire and leave the workforce during the pandemic. 

“We saw more Canadians retire in the pandemic then before and because we have a lot of baby boomers who are getting close to 65, a lot of Canadians will retire in the next few years,” said Cleroux.

Canada also saw it’s lowest population increase in more than a century due to the pandemic and took in 400,000 fewer immigrants. 

The survey found that 64 per cent of entrepreneurs said the labour shortage is limiting their growth. 

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) agrees with the survey results and said a labour shortage is a real problem for the Canadian economy.

“The gripping labour shortages are in retail, hospitality, arts and entertainment and these customer facing businesses,” said Dan Kelly, President of the CFIB.

The CFIB said that generous government benefit programs such as CERB and additional EI benefits have also made it difficult to hire people who may make more money staying home than working.

The survey found 55 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses said they find it difficult to hire people and 49 per cent said say they must increase their wages and benefits to attract applicants. 

There is also a concern if vaccines become mandatory for private workplaces it could also cause some workers to quit their jobs. 

For example in the restaurant industry a customer currently has to be vaccinated to enter, but the waiter serving the customer or the kitchen cook preparing the food does not.

Kelly said if private workplaces have to bring in mandatory vaccinations for all workers, some may decide to quit. 

“If governments make mandatory vaccinations for private sector workers that will make the labour shortage a million times worse,” said Kelly.

Many employees who are working from home are also reluctant to go back to the office and employers may have to be more flexible or staff may seek employment elsewhere.

The survey found the labour shortage is not going away anytime soon and companies may have to use more automation to get work done or offer “total compensation packages” to employees when they hire them so they’ll stick around.