How the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Moved from Being a Nimble Program to One that Requires a Complete Revamp
According to popular perception, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, currently under intense Parliamentary scrutiny following a series of program abuse allegations by the Royal Bank of Canada, three McDonald’s franchises in Victoria, British Columbia and a pizza restaurant in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, was a program that had merit on paper initially, before it spiralled out of control.
Currently, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has become a major issue affecting not only unemployed Canadians but also those individuals coming to Canada from abroad, for short-term jobs.
Canada launched the program in 1973, aiming to bringing in highly specialised workers like academics and engineers for meeting skills gaps in the country. In 2002, the Liberals under Jean Chretian, included low-skilled workers under the ambit of the program.
Successive Liberal and Conservative governments continued to tweak the program further so that it expedited the process of bringing in foreign workers into several sectors of the industry, including food and construction, once pilot projects commenced in Alberta and British Columbia. This resulted in the accelerated entry of temporary foreign workers into Canada – moving from 101,000 in 2002 to 338,000 in 2012, with low-skill workers forming the fastest growing denomination of workers.
Under the current program, Canadians lose out on jobs as do several foreign workers. Locals also miss out on employment opportunities and employers keep wages at artificially low levels. In addition, the government also does not have the bandwidth to keep monitoring a program of this size for any possible program abuses.
Researches also back the impact of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. A CD Howe Institute reported that a pilot project that accelerated the approval process for companies to hire low-skill temporary foreign workers, raised unemployment levels.
The Alberta Federation of Labour revealed recently that some companies were paying temporary foreign workers up to $5 less than the prevailing local market wage for the job, with the tacit approval of the federal government. This also means that the program can reduce wages for foreign workers as well.
According to Jason Foster, the coordinator for Athabasca University’s industrial relations program, “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program moved from being a small, nimble program to a large-scale one that the Government could not manage successfully.” While Employment Minister Jason Kenney promised to implement new reforms for the program, experts believe that only a complete revamp of the program could help salvage the situation.
Source: CBC News
Two new reports are suggesting that Canada’s impending labour shortage might not be as severe as experts had been warning for the past several years.
This fall both the Toronto Dominion Bank and Montreal’s Institute for Research on Public Policy released reports suggesting that there is little evidence supporting the labour shortage theory.
Despite repeated warnings of labour shortages, both from the Canadian government trying to justify policy decisions as well as from employers who claim to be having difficulty finding the workers they need, economists say there is little evidence to support such claims.
The TD report looked at job vacancy rates across the country, as well as shifts in wage patterns, and found that despite the continued growth in the Prairies, employer demands in the West are being offset by unemployment in other areas of the country.
“We definitely don’t have broad labour shortages right now, because we still have effectively more workers looking for work than there are positions,” said Cliff Halliwell, author of the Institute for Research on Public Policy report. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t places, say, in Northern Alberta, where they’re facing difficulties hiring workers or in specific occupations.”
In fact, employers looking to fill precisely those positions are often the ones who raise the shortage issue, and look to the temporary foreign worker program to find the labour they need. So far this year the government appears to be bringing in more temporary workers than last year, with recent program changes expected to spark continued interest in the program.
Experts say that policy-makers would be better off focusing their efforts toward increased training and skills matching, rather than trying to grow the overall labour pool.
Source: Globe and Mail
The Canadian job market is beginning to show signs of recovery, according to the latest data released from Statistics Canada.
This month’s labour force survey showed that the unemployment rate held steady at a five-year low of 6.9 percent, while over 13,000 new jobs were created.
While the steady numbers came as good news to some, other economic analysts say the figures are masking other more disconcerting trends under the surface. The manufacturing sector, for instance, is losing record numbers of jobs, according to the survey.
Additionally, the jobs being created are more likely to be low-skilled and low-paying employment, with most new positions arising in the health-care, accommodation, and service sectors.
Employers in Alberta and Saskatchewan have increased their recruitment efforts in places like Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, according to Workopolis.com president Kelly Dixon. This reflects the continued trend of growth in the Prairie provinces, as well as the high unemployment rates in the Eastern Maritime provinces, where workers are more likely to relocate for jobs.
The health care sector’s growth is being attributed to Canada’s aging population, while gains in construction are mostly fuelled by government stimulus initiatives, though some experts point to a hot housing market in recent years.
Source: Globe and Mail