A Primer on Canada’s Foreign Workers

A Primer on Canada’s Foreign Workers

The Conference Board of Canada, 71 pages, September 8, 2016
Report by Kareem El-Assal, Arthur Sweetman


The June 2014 overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) resulted in significant policy reforms, and changes to how the Canadian government groups and reports foreign worker data. This report enhances readers’ understanding of the changes.

Document Highlights

The June 2014 overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) resulted in significant policy reforms, and changes to how the federal government groups and reports foreign worker data. According to the Government of Canada, these methodological changes were made to reduce confusion and allow stakeholders to better understand statistics on Canada’s foreign workers. In addition to assessing the latest foreign worker data, A Primer on Canada’s Foreign Workers evaluates the foreign worker objectives of key stakeholders—including governments, employers, workers, and broader society.

Overall, this report notes there are various benefits and costs to foreign worker programs, including potential benefits to Canada when these programs are well-executed. As well, the reportdiscusses what several recent developments—including foreign worker reforms and recently concluded free trade agreements—could mean for Canada’s foreign worker population moving forward.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Chapter 1—Overview

Chapter 2—Objectives of Foreign Worker Programs Chapter Summary

  • Federal Government
  • Provincial and Territorial Governments
  • Employers
  • Workers
  • Worker’s Rights Organizations
  • What Do Stakeholders Gain and Lose?

Chapter 3—Concepts and Definitionse

  • Temporary Residents
  • The Temporary Foreign Worker Program
  • International Mobility Program
  • International Students: Work Permits No Longer Required for Many
  • The Impact of June 2014 Reforms on Foreign Worker Data Grouping and Reporting

Chapter 4—Analysis of Foreign Worker Statistics

  • IMP Work Permits Signed Increases Following 2008–09 Recession; TFWP Down Slightly
  • International Students: An Increasingly Significant Force in the Canadian Labour Market
  • Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds Work Permits Are Down Following Asylum Reforms
  • TFW Arrival Destinations: Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec Lead the Way
  • TFWP Permits Signed Between 2004 and 2013: Mostly Other–High-Skilled
  • Agricultural Workers—The Exception Among TFWP Categories
  • Evaluating the Decline of TFWP Permits Signed in 2014 and 2015
  • The Four-Year Maximum Cumulative Duration Regulation
  • TFW Population Remains Prevalent in Canada
  • IMP Arrival Destinations: Most Settle in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta
  • IMP Agreements: Rise in Canada–International and Canada–P/T Agreements
  • IMP Canadian–Interests: Most Fall Under Reciprocal Employment, and Competitiveness and Public Policy Subcategories
  • Possible Explanations for Growing IMP Population
  • Foreign Workers Transitioning to Permanent Residence
  • Limited Labour Market Data a Challenge for Stakeholders

Chapter 5—Future Considerations

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
  • Conclusion

Appendix A—Bibliography