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Canada’s low fertility rate may be linked to younger generations not feeling they will be able to support a family within the country’s current work-life balance, according to a new survey. 

Express Employment Professionals conducted a survey which revealed one-third of employed job seekers, 33%, said they would be putting the concept of starting a family on hold as a result of their poor work-life balance. 

That figure increased amongst Canada’s youngest generations, with 42% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennials sharing that sentiment. 

The majority of employed job-seeking respondents, 66%, said that companies should take note that prioritizing work-life balance is essential to what they’re looking for when looking for new employment, with starting a family being the main factor. 

Of the 66% of respondents who felt this way, 77% were Gen Z and 72% were Millennials.  

“We definitely hear more and more that candidates are looking for flexibility, and I think employers understand family/work balance is important to employees,” said Jessica Culo, an Express franchise owner in Edmonton, Alberta. 

“The most common thing I hear from candidates who are putting off starting a family is that the cost of living is too high.”

Brent Pollington, another Express franchise owner in Vancouver agrees with Culo, saying that the high cost of living in such a city plays a significant role in the decision to start a family. 

“I think, especially post-pandemic, most employers have been fairly accommodating,” said Pollington. “Work/life balance is important, and I think organizations are offering flexibility, providing time-off benefits and generally doing what they need to do to support their employees.”

However, Pollington noted that the concept of a work-life balance isn’t a one-way street and that employers are also struggling with increased demands brought to them by employees. 

Demands which he believes must be earned, not automatically granted. 

“Employees and job seekers have high expectations, but increased demands need to be earned by being a contributor at your workplace and demonstrating an ability to get your job done within regular business hours,” said Pollington. 

One concern Culo has is that many employees want total remote work, whereas most employers would prefer to offer a hybrid option

“When it comes to remote work, many employers are not offering 100% remote but compromising and doing hybrid schedules,” said Culo.  “A lot of the increased demands we have seen in recent years are becoming less of a request and more of an expectation at this point.”

The main changes that Culo and Pollington feel employers could make to offer better work-life balance to employees would be hybrid work schedules with flexible start times, more paid time off and childcare subsidies. 

“Gradual return-to-work programs after maternity leave are a relatively new option we are seeing where, after maternity leave, employees do not return full-time immediately, but instead over a set amount of time,” said Culo.

The results of the survey suggest that if companies do offer these kinds of benefits to job-seekers, their recruitment and ability to retain candidates will likely improve, which would ultimately have a positive effect on companies’ bottom line. 

“The organizations that can offer something that is different than the standard will have a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting and attracting talent,” said Culo.

Canada’s fertility rate hit a record-low in 2022, dropping to 1.33 children per woman. 

The latest data, collected by Statistics Canada, reveals the lowest fertility rate in a century of record keeping. 

While the downward trend of Canada’s fertility rate began to take off in 2009, it accelerated greatly in 2020, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to Bill Stoller, CEO of Express Employment International, embracing working parents is no different than embracing any other segment of the workforce. 

“It’s evident from this survey that job seekers are feeling forced to choose between their careers and home lives,” he said. “A little bit of creative flexibility can help attract and retain top talent for skills that are desperately needed.”