In a Tight Labour Market, Wage Expectation Gap Between Workers and Employers Grows

New Survey Reveals Workers Want Bigger Raises Than Employers Willing to Offer

TORONTO, May 22, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new survey released by Express Employment Professionals asked job seekers how much of a raise their employers would have to offer for them to turn down a rival job offer and stay with their current employer. It also asked employers how much they would be willing to offer an employee to stay. The survey found that, on average, employees want more than employers are willing to offer.

Job seekers were asked, “If offered a new job, how much of a pay increase would it take to stay with your current employer?”

  • 20% said 16 to 20%
  • 19% said 11 to 15%
  • 19% said 5 to 10%
  • 18% said 21% or more
  • 7% said 3 to 4%
  • 7% said “other,” noting that they would take into consideration the specific job offer and such things as benefits packages
  • 6% said they would stay without a pay increase
  • 3% said 1 to 2%

Employers were asked, “If a star employee were offered a job with another company, how much of a pay increase over their current salary or wage would you offer to retain them?”

  • 39% said 5 to 10%
  • 14% said 11 to 15%
  • 13% said they would not offer a pay increase
  • 11% said 16 to 20%
  • 9% said 3 to 4%
  • 7% said “other,” citing such concerns as individual circumstances and benefits
  • 6% said 21% or more
  • 1% said 1 to 2%

While nearly 60% of employees would seek a raise of more than 10% to turn down a job offer (with nearly 40% requiring a pay increase of 15% or more), only 30% of employers would be willing to offer more than 10%, even to a star employee (with only 17% willing or able to offer 15% or more).

Daniel Purdy, an Express franchise owner in Abbotsford, British Columbia, reports that due to ongoing labour shortages, many employers are already offering wages well-above industry standards in order to retain their workers.

“Many local service sector and light industrial jobs pay $1.50 to $3 per hour above the minimum wage now,” Purdy said. “There are significant labour shortages throughout the Lower Mainland with B.C.’s unemployment rate at an unprecedented low of 4.6%. In a tight labour market, company loyalty is becoming increasingly rare. We’re seeing younger generations of employees only average one to two years in role with the same employer.”

KV Aulakh, an Express Employment Professionals franchise owner in Barrie, Ontario, is seeing the same trend, and warns that employers risk losing talent if they don’t keep up with pay expectations.

“Most companies in our area pay above the minimum wage,” Aulakh said. “Companies that do not increase wages certainly lose workers and, more importantly, have a hard time finding the right talent that they need.”

But Purdy and Aulakh point out that not all companies can offer big pay raises.

“Over the last 12 months, increasing minimum wages and new payroll taxes have caused many companies to face difficult decisions,” Purdy said. “Tapped out small business owners continue to grapple with ways to cope, including by shifting labour expenses to third-party staffing and recruiting agencies and adopting new technologies to automate operations.”  

“There are multiple reasons why an employer cannot offer higher wages, especially small businesses,” Aulakh said. “They have had to increase everyone’s pay significantly just to pay the increasing minimum wage (this already affects their bottom line), and now for them to increase even more to attract better talent means they have to make sacrifices elsewhere which a lot of companies aren’t able to do.”

Aulakh and Purdy also note that there are many important factors other than pay which employees consider when deciding to stay with or leave an employer. A recent survey by Express found that low pay was ranked fourth by employees as the reason why they leave an employer, after lack of advancement opportunities and not a good cultural fit.

“In this day and age there are a lot of things that matter to the people outside of pay (which still matters),” Aulakh said. “A lot of other factors come into play such as the company culture.”

“Companies are offering greater retention incentives than ever before through enhanced retirement plans, tax-free savings accounts, bonuses and commissions, shift premiums, reimbursable expenses, gas/petrol cards, gym and store memberships and free meals,” Purdy said.

“It has never been easier for workers to jump between jobs,” said Bill Stoller, the CEO of Express. “And because workers are so mobile, there’s less fear about leaving a ‘good job’ for a pay increase. If the new job doesn’t work out, there are plenty of other employers eager to hire. Businesses have to keep their finger on the pulse of the local economy, or they risk losing the talent wars.”

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If you would like to arrange for an interview to discuss this topic, please contact Ana Curic at (613) 858-2622 or email

About Bill Stoller
William H. "Bill" Stoller is chairman and chief executive officer of Express Employment Professionals. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the international staffing company has more than 800 franchises in the U.S., Canada and South Africa. Since its inception, Express has put more than 7.7 million people to work worldwide.

About Express Employment Professionals
Express Employment Professionals puts people to work. It generated $3.56 billion in sales and employed a record 566,000 people in 2018. Its long-term goal is to put a million people to work annually. For more information, visit

In a Tight Labour Market, Wage Expectation Gap Between Workers and Employers Grows New Survey Reveals Workers Want Bigger Raises Than Employers Willing to Offer