FEDERAL Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, on Monday announced the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program Workforce Solutions Road Map. This initiative marks the next step in an ongoing effort to adjust and improve the TFW Program to ensure it continues to meet the labour market needs of today.
Central to this is addressing labour shortages, enhancing worker protections and building a stronger workforce for today and tomorrow, including through pathways to permanent residency. Five key policy changes will be implemented in the coming weeks as part of the TFW Program Workforce Solutions Road Map to respond to current labour and skills shortages. Effective immediately:
- To address seasonal peaks, there will no longer be a limit to the number of low-wage positions that employers in seasonal industries, such as fish and seafood processing, can fill through the TFW Program. This makes permanent the Seasonal Cap Exemption that has been in place since 2015. In addition, the maximum duration of these positions will be increased from 180 days to 270 days per year.
- Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) will be valid for 18 months, an increase from 9 months. (Prior to COVID-19, LMIA’s were valid for six months).
- The maximum duration of employment for High-Wage and Global Talent Streams workers will be extended from two years to three years. This extension will help workers access pathways to qualify for permanent residency, enabling them to contribute to our workforce for the long-term.
Effective April 30:
- For seven sectors with demonstrated labour shortages, such as Accommodation and Food Services, employers will be allowed to hire up to 30% of their workforce through the TFW Program for low-wage positions for one year. All other employers will be allowed to hire up to 20% of their workforce through the TFW Program for low-wage positions until further notice, an increase from the former 10% cap for many employers.
- The Government will end the current policy that automatically refuses LMIA applications for low-wage occupations in the Accommodation and Food Services and Retail Trade sectors in regions with an unemployment rate of 6% or higher.
In 2020, TFWs made up less than 0.4% of the Canadian workforce and will continue to make up a small percentage of our workforce with these changes. The Government said it will carefully monitor implementation and continually review the policies to ensure they are addressing real labour shortages without displacing Canadian workers. It added that it continues to support broader efforts to build a strong Canadian workforce for today and tomorrow. This includes historic investments in jobs and skills training, improving working conditions, and strengthening worker protections.
In order to ensure that employers across the country can hire TFWs in a timely manner, Service Canada recently implemented a series of measures to increase capacity and expedite the processing of LMIA applications. This includes increasing staffing resources in all regions, including Quebec. Employers are also encouraged to submit their application online to reduce processing time. These changes will not affect the stringent checks undertaken through the process to keep workers safe and protect labour market conditions.
All of these changes are occurring alongside the Government’s ongoing work to strengthen worker protections. Qualtrough also announced that she will convene the inaugural TFW Program Ministerial Consultative Roundtable in June 2022 to hear directly from worker representatives and other stakeholders on how to make the program stronger and more effective for workers, employers and their communities. The focus of the first Roundtable will be on housing accommodations, as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for safe and adequate employer-provided housing for TFWs. This Roundtable builds on working group discussions already underway between federal, provincial and territorial officials on this topic. As part of a ‘What We Heard Report’ released in December 2021, the Government of Canada committed to changes in this area to address immediate health and safety concerns.
ESDC is also working to rebuild the TFW compliance regime to better protect TFWs. Ongoing activities to strengthen ESDC’s risk-based approach to target higher-risk employers include:
- further strengthening TFW inspection tools and mandatory training;
- leveraging its tip line service, allowing workers to flag any situation of abuse or misuse of the program; and
- expanding its work with consulates to identify concerns that need immediate attention.
Through Budget 2021, the Government also announced 49.5 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to support community-based organizations in the provision of migrant worker-centric programs and services, such as on-arrival orientation services and assistance in emergency and at-risk situations, through the new Migrant Worker Support Program.
In July 2021, the Government pre-published new proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette Part I to help prevent the mistreatment or abuse of temporary foreign workers during their stay in Canada and strengthen program integrity. Work is underway to finalize the 14 regulatory amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Temporary Foreign Workers) and final publication in the Canada Gazette Part II is anticipated later this summer.
- The TFW Program allows employers in Canada to hire a foreign worker when no Canadians or permanent residents are available.
- The Canadian labour market is tighter than before the pandemic and the job vacancy rate reached an historic peak in the 3rd quarter of 2021. Much of the unmet demand is in low-wage occupations and, according to Statistics Canada, in November 2021 the following sectors were facing the highest number of vacancies:
- Accommodation and Food Services – 130,070 vacancies
- Health Care and Social Assistance – 119,590 vacancies
- Retail Trade – 103,990 vacancies
- Manufacturing – 81,775 vacancies
- In 2021, the TFW Program approved approximately 5,000 positions under the Global Talent Stream and 23,000 positions in the High-Wage stream. Together, these programs represent approximately 21% of all approved LMIA positions for that year.
- Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 foreign agricultural workers come to work in Canada each year, which accounts for more than 60% of all foreign workers entering Canada under the TFW Program.
- ESDC held consultations on Minimum Requirements for Employer-Provided Accommodations from October 27 to December 20, 2020. Approximately 150 written submissions were received from a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including provincial/territorial governments, municipalities, fire chiefs, public health units, employers, industry associations, unions/labour groups and foreign governments. The views of approximately 675 migrant workers were represented in submissions made by migrant worker support organizations.