A new study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says the average small business owner is working the equivalent of an eight-day workweek due to staffing challenges, especially in Western Canada.
The report, based on a survey of CFIB members last September, found 59 per cent of Canada’s small and medium-sized businesses were affected by labour shortages, forcing the average owner to work 54 hours per week to compensate.
"Owners have to work more hours, or they have to choose to have their employees work more hours," said CFIB economist Laure-Anna Bomal, a co-author of the report.
"They have to turn down sales contracts, decrease service offerings. They are diverted from developing and implementing strategies to their business to improve, to grow their business, so that's really an issue."
The study indicates the problem is getting worse. The number of small businesses affected by labour shortages has increased from 55 per cent in November 2021.
Among businesses experiencing labour shortages, almost three-quarters reported the owners had to work more hours and 54 per cent indicated their employees had to work more hours to make up for being short-staffed.
Bomal said the problem is particularly prevalent in the West, where 76 per cent of small business owners in Alberta affected by labour shortages are working more hours as a result, followed by 75 per cent each in Manitoba and British Columbia.
By sector, the share of owners working more hours to compensate for staff shortages was 84 per cent in hospitality and 82 per cent in agriculture.
"What I didn't really expect is the number of hours being that high," said Bomal, who pointed to potential solutions.
"We know that we really need to increase the labour pool of workers. What we can do, for example, is to target older workers, or simplify or improve the immigration processes."
She said policymakers could also look to free up business owners' time by reducing red tape or incentivizing productivity.
"So for example, we can introduce tax credits to stimulate automation," Bomal said.
Statistics Canada’s September 2022 Labour Force Survey found Canadian full-time and part-time employees over 15 typically work 35.6 hours per week. That means small business owners work 50 per cent more than the average employees, according to the report.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2023.
Sammy Hudes, The Canadian Press