As much as 81 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Quebec say they’re feeling the strain of the labour shortage, according to a new report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
The federation surveyed over 850 of its members in January 2022.
According to its findings, 59 per cent of SME managers and 43 per cent of employees had to work longer hours in the first month of 2022 to make up for a lack of workers.
“Quebec SMEs have never been so hard hit from all sides: economic restrictions, price and cost increases, problems in the supply chain, etc.,” said François Vincent, vice president of the CFIB’s Quebec branch.
Labour scarcity has skyrocketed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many businesses hiking up wages and bonuses to attract potential employees. But the CIFD says the problem is prevailing, with 37 per cent of SMEs reporting they had to refuse sales or contracts, 11 per cent saying they’ve had to extend contracts, and 31 per cent saying they had to cancel or postpone business projects.
“There is the problem of not being able to find the necessary personnel to reopen, meet demand or grow the business. We can truly talk about a crisis when 3 out of 5 SMEs are at risk in the short or medium term if the issue persists,” said Vincent.
The Quebec government has implemented a number of measures to breathe life into the workforce, including investing $3.9 billion with the goal of adding 170,000 workers in certain prioritized sectors, announced in November.
And as COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted province-wide, with the government aiming to open businesses such as restaurants and gyms at full capacity by mid-March, things appear to be looking up for the local economy.
Nevertheless, many SME owners say more action is needed from Quebec to address the labour crisis, particularly when it comes to taxes.
57 per cent said the government should consider reducing taxes for SMEs and 49 per cent said business tax credits could be enhanced to enable the offering of better working conditions.
Around 30 per cent of those surveyed also voted in favour of various measures related to immigration, including reducing the processing times for the hiring of migrant workers.
“Now we need to do more and meet the needs of SMEs. If we don’t and if the measures have the effect of helping certain sectors to the detriment of others, the labour shortage crisis will grow,” Vincent continued. “The Quebec government must grasp the full extent of the labour crisis and respond by including these orientations in its next budget.”