Temporary foreign worker program could be distorting labour market needs: report - Macleans.ca

Temporary foreign worker program could be distorting labour market needs: report


TORONTO – Canada’s temporary foreign worker program was under renewed scrutiny Tuesday as a new report suggested the increasingly controversial system “could be distorting” the natural supply and demand of the country’s labour market.

The University of Calgary study suggests Canada isn’t facing a wide-scale labour shortage but rather is experiencing a “serious mismatch” between the skills of its labour force and the demands of the labour market.

Kevin McQuillan — lead author of the study titled “All the workers we need: debunking Canada’s labour shortage fallacy” — said improving the balance in the labour marketplace does not require an increase in the labour supply.

“Indeed, the TFWP (temporary foreign worker program) is sometimes being used to fill jobs with foreign workers in regions that already suffer from relatively high unemployment rates,” wrote McQuillan.

“Temporary foreign workers could be distorting the labour market forces that would bring together more Canadian workers and jobs.”

McQuillan suggested an improved immigration policy — that could adjust intake levels with labour market needs and reduce the number of temporary foreign workers brought in — as part of the solution.

“The country is not likely to benefit from a growing class of low-paid, temporary residents,” he wrote. “Canada needs to make more effective use of its homegrown human resources.”

In 2012, some 213,516 people entered Canada via the temporary foreign worker program, more than three times the number admitted a decade ago.

The private sector brought in 25 per cent more foreign labourers last year than the number of economic immigrants accepted by the government, which has long insisted caps on its own programs are necessary so as not to flood the Canadian labour market.

McQuillan’s report conceded there are worker shortages in specific industries and certain regions, but he argued that young Canadians need to be encouraged to pursue an education and careers in fields where jobs are available.

He said this could be done through government funding into educational institutions with programs that match labour market needs and tuition pricing that charges more for study in a field where there is already an excess of labour.

He also suggested the government should find ways — such as a tax break — to entice Canadian workers to move from high-unemployment regions to provinces where workers are needed.

Statistics Canada’s labour market survey placed the unemployment rate at 7.2 per cent in March.

Tuesday’s report refocused attention on the temporary foreign worker program, which the Conservative government was recently forced to admit is due for an overhaul after weeks of public outcry over the scarcity of Canadian jobs.

Under the proposed changes, employers will no longer have flexibility to set the wages for foreign labour, putting an end to a rule that allowed businesses to pay foreign workers up to 15 per cent below median wages, if that’s what they were paying Canadians.

The Conservatives also called for a temporary freeze to a program that fast-tracked the ability of some companies to bring in workers from outside Canada through what’s known as an accelerated labour market opinion.

The two key changes are part of a larger overhaul of the program that also includes stricter rules for applications, new fees for employers who apply and a promise of stricter enforcement.

The temporary foreign worker program has become increasingly contentious as Canadians have reacted to the way in which it has been used by some large employers.

In April, it was revealed that the Royal Bank (TSX:RY) contracted an external supplier to provide IT assistance, which resulted in the bank outsourcing some Canadian jobs. Questions were raised about how the supplier brought its own employees into Canada under the temporary foreign worker program so they could be trained at RBC branches.

Last year, a mining firm came under scrutiny for being approved to bring in foreign labour by claiming the ability to speak Mandarin was an essential requirement of the job.


Temporary foreign worker program could be distorting labour market needs: report

  1. It might help to have a national public database of job categories that show current and projected future needs, that could be tapped into by educators / career counsellors and students / unemployed / looking to retrain alike. Many are flying blind in making their choices.

    (We may already have such a thing but if so I’m not aware of it – so if it exists maybe some of those EAP ad dollars could be redirected to an awareness campaign)

  2. “Kevin McQuillan — lead author of the study titled “All the workers we
    need: debunking Canada’s labour shortage fallacy” — said improving the
    balance in the labour marketplace does not require an increase in the
    labour supply.”

    Duh!! GoC, brought to you by the party of the stupid, aka the CPC.

  3. Employers are saying there is a skills shortage and yet they are not telling our colleges and universities what they want. Companies dumped all their training on the colleges and universities as thy got so lazy and yet this still is not good enough. All they can say is, “I Want a car!!” but they don’t tell what kind of car they want they just say, “A Car!!” Then when you do bring them a car it is not the right kind of car becuase they refuse to tell you what kind of car they want. They use this temp worker as cop-out so that they can make $5 million a year and drive their 5 cars and 10 houses. If they have to train a Canadian they might have to live in 4 cars and 9 houses. I got screwed out of jobs because of this being a white male.

    I have a Business Management diploma, Real Estate Condo/Strata Property Management certificate from University of British Columbia, a Land Agent Managment certitficate form Olds College, wrote property guides, 13 years security at various properties and handle my parents 4 condos. All this and yet employers say “You have related experience and not direct experience and we can not hire you.” Or “You don’t look like a condo manager!” Yet somebody off the boat from India or China or wherever, who can barley say their name and can’t speak English can land a job as a property manager? Something wrong here? Yes, I have been discriminated because I have mild cerebral palsy as well. But this doesn’t at all affect my ability to to do my job. People get so stuned that I can drive. As soon as I mention I can drive all of a sudden employers go haywire.

    One employer asked me, “How did you pass your University of British Columbia Course in Strata/Condo Mannagement?” What do you want me to fail the course or something was I supposed to fail the course after my background in Business and security about property managment. I think these employers should have their corporate tax breaks taken away for mistreatment of Canadians.