Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s response to recent policy studies and negative media coverage has cast a shroud of economic doom over Canada’s very successful temporary foreign worker (“TFW”) program. Mr. Kenney has raised the processing cost for potential employers and limited the geographical scope of the unskilled portion of the program to areas with less than 6 per cent unemployment. Other unspecified changes also loom for the live-in caregiver program. These efforts to curtail the TFW program underestimates the economic benefits derived from TFW’s, including the less skilled, while overstating the costs imposed by their presence.
For any immigration program to be economically successful, net economic benefits should flow to the welcoming country from the increased presence of migrants. Labour market policy interventions can result in benefit for some economic actors and not for others. A policy intervention can be judged a success if the aggregate gains outweigh the losses. Those individuals who suffer the costs of a policy change can be compensated by the realized economic gains. It is therefore not necessary to curtail an economically successful labour market policy such as Canada’s TFW program when a portion of these benefits can be redistributed to offset any losses incurred by a minority of Canadian residents.
Canada’s TFW program has a long, successful history and, unlike elsewhere, has not produced a legacy of undocumented workers. Two categories of lower-skilled TFW workers that impose no costs on resident Canadians who in turn enjoy substantial benefits, are seasonal agricultural workers and live-in caregivers. Restaurant and hospitality TFWs, mostly in Alberta, also generate significant economic activity that is of net benefit to resident Canadians. Wisely, Mr. Kenney has left the historically successful seasonal agricultural worker program alone. However, he has promised a review of the equally successful live-in caregiver program and as noted has incorrectly restrained the hiring of restaurant TFWs in areas with lower unemployment rates.
Each of these lower-skill TFWs produce a service and/or a good that, in their absence, may never have been produced. Agricultural workers have been instrumental in the development of a robust, export-oriented wine industry in Ontario and British Columbia. Live-in caregivers benefit many Canadian families, since few Canadians are involved in this service and the family employer is then able to enter the Canadian labour market. The presence of these two types of TFWs produces economic benefits such as faster industry sector growth and increased government tax revenue.
Canada in 2014 has the world’s most comprehensive TFW program for which the economic and employment benefits to Canadians far outweigh the costs. The costs have usually been associated with isolated instances of Canadians denied jobs in industries that use the program. The policy solution to these negative effects is new government regulations that financially penalize employers guilty of this abuse.
Source: The Globe And Mail