Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada – About 550,000 accounting for 2.9% of total employment

Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) have played an increasingly important role in the Canadian labour market in recent years (Lu and Hou, 2019). Close to 470,000 foreign nationals have a work permit that became effective in 2019, compared to 340,000 in 2017 and 390,000 in 2018.Note However, their contribution to the labour market could be severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken by governments at all levels to contain the spread of the virus. Even though TFWs are allowed to enter Canada, the availability of new TFWs may be reduced or delayed due to travel restrictions in some source countries, their unwillingness to travel due to the fear of virus infection, and the mandatory 14-day self-isolation policy upon arrival. Additionally, many businesses are temporarily closed or are operating considerably below their full capacity, which could lead to disproportionate layoffs among temporary foreign workers.

In 2017, there were about 550,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada, accounting for 2.9% of total employment. Although the overall percentage of TFWs may not be large, they were particularly important in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, accounting for 15.5% of the employment in that sector. In contrast, the share of TFWs in other goods-producing sectors was generally small, amounting to 1.0% of employment in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction, and 1.7% in manufacturing.

Among services-producing sectors, the highest proportion of TFWs was observed in accommodation and food services at 7.2%, followed by 5.8% in administrative and support services, waste management and remediation services, 3.8% in professional, scientific and technical services, and 3.8% in arts, entertainment, recreation, information and cultural industries. The shares of TFWs were relatively low in transportation and warehousing (1.7%), finance and insurance (1.6%), healthcare and social assistance (1%), and utilities (0.5%). All four industries have been providing essential services during the pandemic.

If the data is further broken down, it is clear that TFWs are more concentrated in specific subsectors (Chart 1). For example, 27.4% of employees in crop production were foreign workers in 2017. (In fact, TFWs accounted for 41.6% of the agricultural workers in Ontario, and over 30% of the agricultural workers in Quebec, British Columbia and Nova Scotia during the year.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ The distribution of temporary foreign workers across industries in Canada


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