The number of temporary workers in Canada is on a steady rise. In 2010, about 182,000 temporary foreign workers (TFWs) entered Canada. It’s the second-highest number of TFW entries in a single year, so some critics have argued that CIC is “throwing the door open for temporary workers.” Does that criticism hold up if we take a closer look at the numbers?
Unlike what is done for permanent immigration, Canada does not set targets for the number of TFWs to be admitted each year. An increase in TFWs simply means that more employers need more employees.
If we look more closely at that overall figure of 182,000, we find:
Nearly 50,000 work permits, or more than a quarter of the total, were issued to young people coming to Canada on working holidays or professional exchanges through International Experience Canada (IEC). They require work permits, but their purpose in coming to Canada is quite different from other types of TFWs, and these programs address social and cultural goals rather than labour market objectives.
More than a tenth (more than 21,000) of the overall number of TFWs entering Canada last year were issued to particular kinds of workers under international trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Trade in Services. It is important to note, however, that as part of these international agreements, Canadians also receive reciprocal treatment that allows them to more easily work in other countries.
For 40 percent of foreign workers, more than 73,000 of the total, the employers had authorization from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada to hire foreign nationals. This authorization is only granted after an assessment of the labor market has been conducted and it has been determined that no Canadians or permanent residents were available to do the job. This figure includes nearly 24,000 seasonal agricultural workers, who play a critical role in ensuring a successful harvest for Canadian producers, and about 8,400 live-in caregivers, who help support Canadian families by providing care to children, the elderly and the disabled.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is operating successfully as a tool for employers to use when they cannot find suitable Canadian or permanent resident employees for the jobs they have available. It also is designed to facilitate other objectives, such as encouraging international exchange, supporting international trade agreements, and keeping families together.
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