Nearly 70 per cent of Canadian employers expect to hire more freelance or contract workers in the next two years as their businesses emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.
The report, commissioned by human resources firm Ceridian, suggests the gig economy will accelerate as companies ramp up hiring post-pandemic. More than half of senior executives surveyed online said they anticipate expanding their workforce in the next 12 months as the economy reopens and 35 per cent said they will look to freelance or contract workers to do so.
Sixty-four per cent of employers surveyed think freelance or gig workers will substantially replace full-time workers within the next five years.
The pandemic has dramatically shifted the balance of power between employers and employees, said Steve Knox, vice-president of global talent acquisition for Ceridian. The rise of work-from-home means that many employees no longer feel tied to one physical workplace. Some employees don’t want to return to the office at all, while others are demanding more work-life balance.
“We’re expecting to see a rise in attrition, really across all organizations,” Knox said. “We’re already starting to see employees questioning, ‘Am I doing the type of work I want to do? They’re re-evaluating their lives.”
The potential for labour shortages means some employers may have little choice but to pad their workforce with temporary gig workers, Knox said. He says in some cases, employers are trying to hold onto employees who seem to prefer temporary contracts as the workplace shifts and changes post-COVID.
“We are seeing instances of, ‘I just want to go and work for 10 months and then I want to take six months off to travel.’ ” Knox said. “People are really kind of questioning this commitment to a long-term employer.”
In Alberta, employers are starting to hire again thanks to rising oil prices and the end this week of nearly all COVID-19 public health restrictions, said Scott Crockatt, spokesman for the Business Council of Alberta, which represents more than 100 of the province’s chief executives.
But there is still a great deal of caution, Crockatt said, and many companies are unwilling to pull the trigger on permanent hires.
“(Companies) might still be unsure exactly of what their labour needs and demands might be, so in some cases they’re preferring to hire people in more flexible arrangements, like contract,” he said.
While Knox said some employees seem eager for contract work in the post-COVID environment, Crockatt said that doesn’t seem to be the case in Alberta. He said many workers who have spent the last 15 months riding out the double whammy of an oil price crash and a global pandemic are searching for long-term stability.
“(Companies) are finding that resistance to contract work, because of the potential unsettled nature of it, is making it doubly hard to recruit people,” he said.
According to a May report by Payments Canada, gig workers including ride-share drivers, freelance writers, graphic designers and general contractors now represent more than one in 10 Canadian adults. More than one in three Canadian businesses employ gig workers, according to Payments Canada.
The Ceridian report was conducted by Hanover Research between April 26 and May 17, and surveyed 2,000 senior executives globally including 491 in Canada.
According to the polling industry’s generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.