An annual cap on the number of temporary workers entering Canada was called for in a report released this month by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, an independent nonprofit organization. Growing numbers of temporary foreign workers could have significant consequences for less-skilled Canadian workers, according to the report.
The document, written by Christopher Worswick of Carleton University, says recent government changes to the temporary foreign worker program are sensible. However, it calls for restrictions, including the cap.
Recent changes by the government included:
- Employers will no longer be able to pay temporary foreign workers at wages of up to 15 percent below a level determined by a government “labor market opinion.”
- Suspending an accelerated labor market opinion process.
- Adding questions to labor market opinion applications to ensure jobs were not outsourced to temporary foreign workers
- Requiring employers to present a plan for replacing temporary foreign workers with Canadian workers over time.
- Introducing a new fee for firms bringing in temporary foreign workers
- Prohibiting requirements in job ads that a language other than English or French be a job requirement except in cases where it’s clearly needed for a job (for example, a foreign-language instructor).
- Increasing government authority to suspend employers who misuse the program from hiring temporary foreign workers in the future.
“These changes are sensible,” Worswick said in a press release. They send “a strong signal that firms should not become reliant on temporary foreign workers and should instead hire and possibly train Canadians to replace them in the future.”
However, the report says the temporary foreign worker program can still be beneficial, especially in cases where firms need to hire highly skilled workers, as long as the program is tightly monitored.
The report cited issues of controversy including an April 2013 incident in which the Royal Bank of Canada laid off 45 employees while apparently outsourcing the work to foreign workers arriving in the country. Another incident involved a Chinese-controlled mine in British Columbia that brought in 200 temporary foreign workers for a period of 15 years.