The number of foreign workers admitted to Canada on a temporary basis more than doubled in a 10-year period, census data shows.
Similar growth in temporary worker programs was seen in many industrialized countries, Statistics Canada said Tuesday.
More than 112,000 foreign-born nationals were working in Canada on census day in 2006, according to census figures. That number was 118 per cent higher that the figure from the 1996 census. About 94,000 were working full-time.
Many of these workers were admitted under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which is designed to help employers address labour shortages in Canada. The program restricts non-permanent resident workers to a specific job or location as a condition of entry.
There are a variety of programs that allow foreign-born nationals to come to Canada to work. Some programs bring in skilled workers, while some target unskilled workers. Other programs allow some non-resident students to work for up to six months while on an exchange program..
A minority of non-permanent residents–mainly refugee claimants–are granted work permits that allow them to accept almost any job with no restrictions.
“The increase in the number non-permanent residents working in Canada may be a result of increased labour market requirements during the economic expansion which ended in the latter part of 2008,” Statistics Canada said.
Who are these foreign-born non-resident workers? Statistics Canada’s analysis of the 2006 census data shows they are diverse, depending on the program that brought them to Canada.
While many came from developing parts of the world, including South East Asia, Latin America and South Asia, many others came from high-GDP areas like the United States and western Europe.
Women made up 40 per cent of all non-resident workers, most often working as caregivers or domestics–many from the Philippines.
Men who hailed from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean were more often employed in agriculture. In Leamington, Ont.–the greenhouse capital of Canada–non-resident foreign nationals account for 9.1 per cent of the town’s full-time labour force.
Non-resident workers from high-GDP economies like the United States and western Europe were more likely to be working as university professors, post-secondary teaching and research assistants, computer programmers and senior managers.
The census analysis notes that non-permanent residents account for less than one per cent of the total full-time workforce in Canada. In some occupations, however, they represent a much bigger share.
For instance, more than 20 per cent of all full-time nannies or parents’ helpers in Canada in 2006 were non-permanent residents. More than 13 per cent of post-secondary teaching and research assistants were non-residents–many also going to school in Canada, too. Nine per cent of farm labourers, eight per cent of nursery workers and six per cent of all physicists and astronomers working in Canada were also non-permanent residents.
Not to compete
Generally speaking, non-resident workers are not supposed to compete with permanent residents for jobs. Employers are often required to obtain a federal certificate stating that no qualified Canadians are available to do the work.
Still, the presence of non-resident employment programs in times of higher unemployment has attracted some criticism over the years, even though employers like them and some international treaties like NAFTA sometimes oblige Canada to admit non-resident workers.
On Monday, the federal government cancelled a program that makes it easier for foreign workers to fill vacant technology jobs in Canada–especially in software development.
Federal officials say the shortage of highly skilled technology workers in the late 1990s no longer exists. Employers will now have to show that no suitable Canadian is available to do a job before a foreign national can be brought in.