TORONTO : To address the growing labour shortage, the Canadian government has taken yet another step. From January 2023, it will expand work eligibility for spouses and working-age children of all workers. This is a temporary two-year measure and will be introduced in a phased manner.
As a result of this new approach, it is estimated that family members of more than two lakh foreign workers could begin working in Canada, cites Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the government’s immigration agency. It illustrates that this could include families of workers in health care, trades and hospitality.
The measure will be phased in, beginning with the high-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program and the International Mobility Program. Canada has issued over 6.45 lakh work permits between January and October 2022 – nearly four times more than 1.63 lakh issued over the same period in 2021. A country-wise break up is not available, but India is a significant source country.
Pavan Dhillon, a Canadian immigration attorney, points out that at present, only spouses of some high-skilled workers (who have eligible work permit) are eligible to work. This narrow category of spouses, in turn, can obtain an open work permit. This is set to change, in a phased manner and will help Canadian employers meet their staffing needs across all skill levels.
According to IRCC, the temporary measure will be implemented in three phases to ensure its successful implementation, however the agency has not provided the specific dates of the opening of each phase. Phase-1 will enable family members of workers coming to Canada through the high-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program to apply for an open work permit.
Phase-2 aims to expand the measure to the family members of workers from the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, following consultations. Lastly, Phase-3 will include consultation with agricultural partners and stakeholders to assess operational feasibility for expanding the measure to family members of agricultural workers.
Sean Fraser, immigration minister said: “Everywhere I go, employers across the country continue to identify a lack of workers as their biggest obstacle. This announcement will help employers find the workers they need to fill their labour gaps by expanding work permits to family members at all skill levels, resulting in family members of over 200,000 foreign workers being able to work in Canada. Our government is going to continue helping employers overcome labour shortages, while also supporting the well-being of workers and uniting their families.”
Temporary Foreign Workers bring essential skills to Canadian businesses. Over the course of the pandemic, even as there was a decline in numbers, the importance of temporary foreign workers to Canada was highlighted as many filled essential service jobs, particularly in the agriculture sector.
According to a report submitted to the Canadian Parliament, in 2020, there were a total of 84,609 permit holders through the TFW Program, which represents a decrease of 14% compared to the 98,062 permit holders in 2019. Under the International Mobility Program, there were a total of 242,130 work permit holders in 2020, representing a decrease of 21% compared to a total of 305,807 work permit holders in 2019.