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The Progressive Economics Forum

More Evidence that Temporary Foreign Worker Program Takes Jobs Away from Canadians

Yet another report, this time by SFU Public Policy Professor Dominique M. Gross, finds evidence that Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program is bad for domestic workers. The report looks at BC and Alberta specifically and concludes that the expansion of the TFW program between 2007 and 2010 resulted in an increase in unemployment levels by 4.8 percentage points in BC and 3.1 percentage points in Alberta. You can read the full report here or see Tara Carman’s article about it in the Vancouver Sun here.

This report confirms what I found in my recent CCPA report, BC Jobs Plan Reality Check. Despite slow job creation, the number of temporary foreign workers in BC grew by 28% in just four years, between December 2008 and December 2012 (the latest numbers available).

And while temporary foreign workers take up a small share of available jobs (just over 3% of all BC jobs in December 2012), the net increase in temporary foreign workers since the recession is very large relative to the few net new jobs created.

Fully 29% or close to one-third of net new jobs created in BC since the recession were filled with temporary foreign workers. This is considerably higher than the Canadian average of 15%.

And while the BC Jobs Plan aimed to create jobs in all regions of the province, the reality is that many of the jobs created outside of urban areas were filled with temporary foreign workers. The statistics show that virtually all new foreign workers who came to BC between December 2011 and December 2012 worked outside of BC’s census metropolitan areas of Vancouver, Abbotsford, Kelowna and Victoria (see chart below). In fact, the increase in foreign workers outside BC’s major urban areas exceeded the new jobs created there in 2012.

 

It seems clear that the TFW program has been a boon to employers directly at the expense of lower skilled workers and youth, who are struggling with high unemployment levels. It’s time for meaningful reform to ensure Canadian workers aren’t shut out of job opportunities.

Originally posted on PolicyNote.ca
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Comments

Comment from Angella MacEwen
Time: April 24, 2014, 11:04 pm

Iglika, I think the other part of this story is how the presence of vulnerable migrant workers in low wage work is used to discipline Canadian workers into accepting lower wages and previously unacceptable working conditions. The precarity of migrant workers completely obliterates the ‘floor’ for all workers.

Comment from Andrew Loewen
Time: April 26, 2014, 1:03 am

“Progressive” economics forum? Sheesh. This post perpetuates a nationalist xenophobia. How progressive is that?

“to ensure Canadian workers aren’t shut out of job opportunities.”

This is disgraceful rhetoric: what happened to “workers of the world”? Apparently a baseline commitment to what used to be common sense among labour progressives is beyond the pale of this forum. “Progressive” indeed.

As a friend said today:

“Will the Canadian labour movement stand up to demand immigration status and equal access for migrants? Will they fight potential deportations of thousands of migrants? Will they speak out about these negative consequences of the TFW suspension in the restaurant industry and how migrants will be impacted? What is the stance of those running for CLC leadership on this issue?”

Comment from Iglika Ivanova
Time: April 28, 2014, 12:13 pm

@Angella: you’re absolutely right. The thing that makes temporary foreign workers so vulnerable is their “temporary” status. Their presence in Canada and ability to make a better future for themselves and their families could be yanked away at a moment’s notice if their employment gets terminated. This is why they tend not to complain even when their rights are blatantly disregarded.

Comment from Iglika Ivanova
Time: April 28, 2014, 12:26 pm

@Andrew: I think you misunderstood my post. I’m not xenophobic, being an immigrant myself. When I say “Canadian workers” I mean “workers residing in Canada” regardless of whether they were native-born or immigrant. But I do think that the temporary foreign worker *program* as structured does not serve the interests of workers, both those in Canada and those outside. The problem is the *temporary* nature of the workers’ status in Canada, which leaves them open to abuse while also driving working conditions and wages down for the Canadian labour market.

It is my view that the recent shift to more temporary migrant workers and fewer immigrants that the TFW Program has been a part of is not in the interest of workers. Canada should go back to accepting more immigrants to settle here and ensure that they get the same working conditions and pay as local workers. We have certain employment standards within Canada, which are decided at the national or the provincial level, and they must be followed by all employers operating within the country.

Comment from Bill Hughes
Time: April 30, 2014, 8:00 am

I’m not seeing certain aspects of the TFW program expressed clearly in the media. i.e. more in the area of the problems around skilled trades and the absence of adequate apprenticeship/training opportunities created by the business community of the past 30 years. In my mind the TFW program defeats the market penalties business should be feeling for this inaction. (the need to recreate internal training programs and higher wages) I don’t feel that business should be allowed access to this facet of the program without having to create and maintain apprentice/trainee programs and positions – the unskilled elements of the program are just wrong in most cases but the skilled element has a very insidious impact on our future economy that I don’t feel is getting the press it deserves.

Comment from paul geddes
Time: May 2, 2014, 5:51 am

So what’s new here? Haven’t unions and their friends always been at the forefront of xenophobic activities that favor insiders? Remember: “Workers unite! Keep South Africa (or BC) white!”

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