Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, following a briefing for news media. The is a detailed and sweeping reform by the government, splitting the program in two and imposing a long list of measures aimed at reducing its use for low-wage positions.
The announcement is an attempt to shrink the program in low-wage sectors and also improve the quality and reliability of data that inform the federal government’s labour market policies. The changes are less restrictive for sectors with above-average wages, even though those categories, including information technology workers, have also come under scrutiny.
Key points in Friday’s announcement:
- The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is split into two: a smaller Temporary Foreign Worker Program will focus largely on low-skilled positions and will be managed by Employment and Social Development Canada. Hiring in this category will require approval through a new screening process called Labour Market Impact Assessments, previously known as Labour Market Opinions. The category is aimed mainly at developing countries.
- The remaining sections of the old program will continue under the name “International Mobility Programs.” It will be run by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and hires will not be screened to see if Canadians are available for the positions. This category is aimed mainly at highly developed countries where highly skilled and highly paid entrants are coming to Canada through international trade agreements
- There will be no access to the program for employers in the accommodation, food services and retail trade sectors if they operate in areas of high unemployment, which the government defines as being above 6 per cent.
- Fees charged to companies that use the program are being increased to $1,000 from $275 per application.
- Employers found breaking the rules will face fines of up to $100,000. The names of employers who are fined will be disclosed.
- The maximum duration a temporary foreign worker can work in Canada is being reduced from the current four years to two years, but a decision is not yet final. The duration of work permits is being reduced to one year from two years.
- No more than 10 per cent of an employer’s work force per worksite can be made up of TFWs.
- Instead of relying on national occupation categories to determine average wages, low-wage positions will be defined as those below the provincial median hourly wage.
- A new fast-track option will approve foreign workers within 10 business days if they are in the highest-demand occupations, such as skilled trades, or are among the top 10 per cent for highest-paid occupations.
- The Live-in Caregiver Program is subject to the new $1,000 fee, but is not subject to the cap or to the reduced timelines. The program is currently facing a separate review and further related announcements are expected.
- A new fee of $230 per work permit will apply to workers in the International Mobility Programs.
The government expects these changes to reduce the number of entries of low-wage temporary foreign workers by 50 per cent by 2016.
Source: The Globe And Mail