Decision-makers from British Columbia’s largest and leading businesses anticipate faster sales growth and plan to increase investment over the next 12 months according to the Business Council of British Columbia’s second B.C. Business Confidence Survey. Firms also anticipate a slight improvement in overall economic conditions in the province over the next 12 months. However, this optimism comes despite, rather than because of, provincial government policy settings as a growing majority of firms lack confidence in the government’s current policy direction.
Firms expect to see faster sales growth, higher investment, and (slightly) increased employment over the next twelve months, on balance. This is a more positive outlook than in our previous survey conducted in 2020Q4.
Roughly two-thirds of surveyed firms expect the provincial economy will be “slightly better” a year from now.
B.C. business leaders expressed deteriorating confidence that the current policy settings of the provincial government will help their businesses succeed over the next 12 months. Two-in-five said they are “somewhat unconfident”, and one-in-five said they were “very unconfident” about provincial policies. Meanwhile, less than one-in-five said they were “somewhat confident”, and no firms indicated they were “very confident”.
The Future of Work
Firms expect a significant reduction in remote work after the pandemic ends. Three quarters expect a hybrid model to develop whereby employees who can do their jobs remotely work off-site 1-3 days per week and are on-site for the balance of the week. Similarly, almost three quarters of firms said they expect to need the same or somewhat less physical space to operate after the pandemic ends.
Respondents anticipate that the top skills needed in their workforces 5 years from now are (in descending order of importance): higher cognitive skills; technology skills; social and emotional skills; basic cognitive skills; and physical and manual skills.
Survey respondents were asked to rank the major challenges or obstacles to growing their sales volumes over the next 5 years. Of the issues cited as top challenges, the most important obstacles were:
- 1. Talent shortages at current wages;
2. Policy or regulatory uncertainty;
3. Adapting to changes in technology or business models;
4. Taxation; and
5. Capacity constraints on equipment and physical space.
About the survey
The Business Council’s B.C. Business Confidence survey examines the views of senior-decision-makers at around 50 large and leading companies operating in the province. The companies are major employers and are sampled in accordance with the industrial composition of B.C.’s business sector gross domestic product (GDP). The latest survey was conducted from June 14 to July 20, 2021 and included 49 responses. The survey asks about firms’ outlook for: sales growth, investment and hiring decisions; the overall B.C. economy over the next 12 months; policy priorities for the provincial government; and the future of work following the COVID-19 pandemic. This is BCBC’s second survey. The previous survey was conducted between November 3 and December 1, 2020 and included 50 responses.