Migrant Workers Filling Most New Jobs, Study Finds

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We welcome migrant workers when there are demonst-rated shortages of workers in Canada, but we want to ensure that those migrant workers are protected on the job and welcomed into the community.

Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti

Migrant workers are filling the majority of new jobs created in Canada in recent years, a new study has found.

Conducted by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the study shows that between 2008 and 2011, migrant workers filled most of the new jobs created by the Canadian economy.

“Roughly 75 percent of the new jobs created in Canada in 2010 and 2011 were filled by temporary foreign workers despite the fact that 1.4 million Canadian residents were unemployed,” says CLC president Ken Georgetti. 

The CLC, which represents 3.3 million Canadian workers, used figures from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey and from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to conduct the research. 

The federal government announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program last month after evidence emerged that employers were using the program to import vulnerable migrant workers at a time of continuing high unemployment in Canada.

Recent high-profile cases of program abuse include HD Mining’s controversial decision to hire some 200 Chinese miners to work in B.C.—with several labour unions alleging the company did not genuinely consider hiring Canadians to fill the positions. Another recent case saw the Royal Bank of Canada hiring temporary foreign workers to replace Canadian staff.

“Employers and the federal government have tried to deny what is happening, but we have crunched the numbers and the trends are clear. In most provinces the importation of migrant workers accounts for more than 50 percent of net new jobs in the years 2008-2011,” Georgetti says. 

The CLC study points to several examples of the proportion of migrant workers to job creation in Canadian provinces.

British Columbia: The influx of temporary foreign workers exceeded the net number of jobs created between 2008 and 2011. B.C. created 52,100 net new jobs in those years, and in 2011 there were nearly 70,000 temporary foreign workers in the province.

Alberta: In 2009, Alberta imported 28,547 temporary foreign workers as the provincial economy shed 28,500 net jobs.

Saskatchewan: On average, between 2008 and 2011, 65 percent of net new jobs created in Saskatchewan were held by temporary foreign workers.

Manitoba: For 2011, approximately 70 percent of the net new jobs created were held by temporary foreign workers.

Ontario: The economy shed over 164,000 jobs in 2009, but 60,000 temporary foreign workers arrived in Ontario. In 2011, 56 percent of net new jobs were held by temporary foreign workers.

Quebec: Ninety percent of the net new jobs created in 2011 were held by temporary foreign workers.

New Brunswick: NB lost 3,400 jobs in 2010 and 4,100 jobs in 2011, but the number of temporary foreign workers arriving in the province increased to 1,819 in that year.

Nova Scotia: NS created only 300 net new jobs in 2011, but over 2,800 temporary foreign workers arrived in the province.

Prince Edward Island: PEI created 1,400 net new jobs in 2011, 42 percent of which were held by temporary foreign workers.

Newfoundland and Labrador: The region lost over 6,000 jobs in 2009, yet nearly 1,400 temporary foreign workers arrived in NL that year. In 2011, 22 percent of net new jobs created were held by temporary foreign workers.

Georgetti says he doesn’t see a problem with temporary workers in general, but Ottawa needs to do more to ensure they are brought to the country in a transparent and responsible fashion, after need is clearly demonstrated.

“Let me be clear. We welcome migrant workers when there are demonstrated shortages of workers in Canada, but we want to ensure that those migrant workers are protected on the job and welcomed into the community,” he says. 

“They should be placed into the permanent immigration stream, not exploited in temporary migration schemes.”

Canada’s economy added 12,500 jobs in April after unexpected losses of 54,500 jobs in March. The national unemployment rate currently sits at 7.2 percent.


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