Academic Literature

Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada – The tendency to stay longer has increased among more recent arrivals

Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) have been playing a growing role in Canada’s labour force and immigration system. The length and type of stay of TFWs in Canada have strong implications for the country’s immigration and labour policies. This study assesses the distribution of temporary workers among possible post-arrival residential trajectories to determine which TFWs are more likely to return to their source country and which are more likely to stay in Canada. Specifically, this study examines the impact of individual characteristics, source-country attributes, host-country institutional factors and local community conditions on the probabilities of TFWs leaving, transitioning to permanent residence or continuing their temporary stay in Canada.

Data for this study are from the Temporary Residents File, which contains demographic and permit-related information on all temporary residents admitted to Canada since 1980. In this study, TFWs are defined as individuals aged 18 to 64 at arrival who received a work permit between 1990 and 2009 and whose first admission to Canada was primarily for work purposes. The analysis excludes TFWs who arrived after 2009 to ensure that the TFWs included in the study were observed for at least five years before the most recent year of observation (2014).

Results suggest that the majority of TFWs in Canada were temporary, meaning that most left within the first two years after arrival. However, the tendency to stay longer has increased among more recent arrivals. The share of remaining TFWs declined the most in the first two years after the first work permit. By the fifth year, the decline started to level off, when 13% of the 1995-to-1999 cohort and 37% of the 2005-to-2009 cohort still remained in Canada. By the 10th year, the share of TFWs remaining in Canada stabilized at about 11% for the 1995-to-1999 cohort and 18% for the 2000-to-2004 cohort. The overwhelming majority of those who stayed over the long term obtained permanent resident status.

Government regulations played the leading role in affecting the length and type of stay of TFWs. There were very large differences in the rate of stay in Canada by arrival cohort. These cohort differences were consistent with Canada’s increased reliance on TFWs and the expanded pathways for TFWs to gain permanent residence. Work permit categories were also major indicators of the length and type of stay, even after other predictors were controlled for in a multivariate analysis. This suggests that the terms and conditions attached to most work permit types function mostly independently of individual characteristics, source-country attributes and local economic and social conditions.

TFWs from countries with lower levels of economic development and social stability were more likely to stay longer in Canada as temporary residents or to become permanent residents. However, many of the differences by source country were accounted for by work permit types. Countries with low levels of economic development and social stability were the main sources of TFWs in the Live-in Caregiver Program, Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, and Low-Skill Pilot. TFWs in all of these programs had a high tendency to stay longer or come back after leaving for a few months.

Individual characteristics (including age and sex), regional unemployment rates and local ethnic concentration had a relatively weak association with the length and type of stay in Canada when work permit type and source-country attributes were considered.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  How Temporary Were Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers?

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