Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here to share CFIB's perspective on poverty reduction strategies.
You should have a slide presentation in front of you that I'm going to walk you through in the next few minutes.
As many members know, CFIB is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization representing more than 109,000 small and medium-sized businesses across Canada. Our members represent all sectors of the economy and are found in every region of the country.
It is important to remember that Canada's small businesses employ 70% of Canadians working in the private sector, are responsible for the bulk of new job creation, and represent about half of Canada's GDP. Addressing issues of importance to them can have a widespread impact on job creation and the economy.
CFIB takes its direction solely from our members through a wide variety of surveys throughout the year. Today I'm going to be presenting data from our training report, published in 2015, that gets into how small businesses train their employees. I have a copy of this report in French and English, which I would like to submit to the committee today. I'm also going to refer to very fresh data from our recent minimum wage survey from this summer.
First, I would like to set the stage and have a look at the state of the economy.
As you see on slide 3, one of the surveys CFIB conducts is our monthly business barometer. Our latest barometer shows that small business confidence dropped in October, sitting at 57.7, down one point from our previous barometer in September. Ideally, we want to see this index between 65 and 70 when the economy is growing at its full potential.
Although employment plans tend to fluctuate seasonally, this October's downward turn was far sharper than usual. As you see on slide 4, the blue line shows the percentage of respondents planning to hire, that is, only 10%, and the red line is those that are planning to lay off, or 21%. Normally we like to see these lines not crossed, as they are, but in fact quite far apart, as they were earlier this year.
CFIB believes the best way to lift people out of poverty is with a job. Many Canadians get their first start in their careers through a small business, and an important component of hiring someone in your business is training them.
As you can see on slide 5, employee training occurs in two forms, formal and informal. Formal training is typically delivered, of course, through courses provided by educational institutions or with a professional instructor. Informal training is provided through on-the-job mentoring by either managers or co-workers, and most often the small business owners themselves.
Small businesses invest heavily in training, spending $9 billion a year on informal training and $5 billion a year on formal training.
Note that the smallest businesses, that is, those with 20 employees or fewer, dedicate more hours and resources on average towards training than any other size of business, on a per employee basis. The reason for this is that the smallest businesses tend to hire a larger proportion of new employees with no previous work experience, and these employees require larger training investments.
Slide 6 breaks this investment down. Over half of business owners offer both formal and informal training to their employees, while 37% offer only informal training, 5% of businesses offer formal training, and another 5% offer no training at all.
Training costs can vary, of course, depending on an employee's previous work experience. Not surprisingly, the more experienced an employee, the less training he or she needs to be prepared for the job at hand. Slide 7 gets into this detail, showing that the most expensive, that is, a new hire with no previous experience, costs the business approximately $4,200 to train, while a new hire with some job experience costs approximately $2,800.
Entrepreneurs need workers with many different skills in order to effectively run their businesses. As you can see on slide 8, the availability of these skills in the labour market can vary over time and by location. Small business owners were having the most difficulty filling positions that required on-the-job training, 54%, and high school or occupational training, 40%. Only 8% of business owners had difficulty finding staff for a job that required a university-level education.
Governments allocate significant financial resources towards workforce development through both public educational institutions and direct government training initiatives. The employment insurance system funds $2 billion in training through the labour market development agreements alone, approximately seven-twelfths of which are funded by business through their EI premiums.
Unfortunately, the current government model does not fully address the training needs of small business, nor does it recognize the realities of training in a small business. This may be why a majority of 84% of small businesses have not used government-sponsored training programs during the past three years, as you can see on slide 9. Of the few businesses that did access government-sponsored programs, many of them frequently identified apprenticeship tax credits as a program they use.
Another tool governments tend to turn to in order to lift people out of poverty is an increase in the minimum wage. We completed a survey this summer that has outlined our approach on this issue, and you can see the results on slide 10. Our members feel strongly that decreasing personal income tax and increasing the basic personal exemption are better solutions than introducing minimum wage increases.
If governments do introduce minimum wage increases, approximately one-third of our members believe they should do so with moderate regular increases, kept in line with consumer prices. The biggest winner when government introduces minimum wage increases in fact is government. When minimum wage goes up without tax exemptions, so do tax revenues.
When asked about the impacts minimum wage increases have had on their business, if you look on slide 11, you'll see that 38% of business owners stated that minimum wage increases had no impact on their business, but another 37% stated that the experience reduced business profits, and 32% had to increase the prices of their products and services. Approximately one in four also reduced their hiring of youth or inexperienced workers.
I've only scratched the surface today of these two very important issues. In conclusion, we recommend that the federal government consider the following recommendations: Ensure that training investments recognize the realities of running a small business and ensure that government training investments match the skills training employers need. Most important, we'd ask that they recognize that informal training can be better to support the training efforts of small and medium-sized businesses. This can be done through the introduction of an EI training credit, for example. Then, last, we discourage the government from increasing the minimum wage.
This concludes my remarks. Thank you for the opportunity to be here. I'm happy to take your questions.
I can also answer your questions in French.