Does the program work for or against the great good?
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program, now under review by the federal government, has recently provoked controversy and plenty of headlines. Critics argue the program hurts both employment prospects and wages for lower-skilled Canadian workers. On the other hand, temporary foreign workers (TFWs) often fill positions Canadian citizens are unwilling to take.
The program allows Canadian employers to hire foreign nationals to fill temporary jobs when qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents are not available. It covers many categories of workers, including international students, truckers, seasonal agricultural workers and live-in caregivers.
Number of TFWs working in engineering-related positions in Atlantic Canada in 2012, the majority of them in Newfoundland and Labrador. When the TFW program was founded 40 years ago, it was aimed exclusively at high-skill occupations. However, the percentage is dropping. In 2002, 78 per cent of TFWs in the region were highly skilled. In 2011, only 44 per cent were highly skilled.
Growth of temporary foreign workers in Atlantic Canada from 2005 (3,500) to 2012 (10,900)
Proportion of total Atlantic employment base made up of temporary foreign workers in 2012. That compares to 1.9% nationally and more than 3% in Alberta. Prince Edward Island has the highest proportion of TFWs in the Atlantic region, at 1.6% of total employment in 2012.
Number of TFWs employed by Atlantic Canada fish plants
Temporary foreign workers who worked outside Atlantic Canada’s six largest urban centres (the four provincial capitals plus Moncton and Saint John) in 2012. The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council warns, “Without access to the TFW program, employers in rural areas may find it increasingly difficult to fill available jobs, particularly since much of this employment is concentrated in lower-wage positions.”
Number of Atlantic Canada food service positions filled by temporary foreign workers in 2012. A moratorium has since been placed on the use of TFWs in the food service sector.
Number of temporary
foreign worker truck
drivers in New Brunswick
Source: Atlantic Provinces Economic Council’s May 2014 Report Card.