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Temporary foreign workers: positive and negative impacts

posted Mar 18, 2012, 11:23 AM by Milorad Borota   [ updated Mar 18, 2012, 11:23 AM ]
February 11, 2012 - 5:34am By HOWARD RAMOS

During the fall of 2011, the Conservative government implemented a number of dramatic changes to the Canadian immigration system. Pundits and critics filled much newsprint weighing-in on many of the changes, but few commented on the rapid increase in the number of temporary foreign workers coming to the country.

Unlike immigrants, temporary foreign workers come to Canada on restrictive visas and do not have the rights of permanent residents. Their admission to the country and employment are contingent on not taking opportunities and jobs away from Canadians.

Statistics on temporary foreign workers vary widely, depending on how they are compiled. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, in 2000 there were 177,781 temporary foreign workers in the country. By 2010, the number was 432,682 — a 140 per cent increase. According to Immigrant and Settlement and Integration Services, based in Halifax, the number of foreign workers entering Nova Scotia has almost doubled in the last five years, from 1,495 to 2,795.

When most Canadians think of temporary foreign workers, they likely think of field workers in Canada’s agricultural belt or caregivers. A 2007 parliamentary report, however, shows that this is far from the case. In fact, "elemental workers and labourers" accounted for just over two per cent of temporary foreign workers. By contrast, about a quarter were "intermediate and clerical workers," another quarter were "professionals," and about a fifth did not state their skill level.

This means temporary foreign workers are employed in a cross-section of the labour market.

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