Canada is reviewing its Temporary Foreign Worker program

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As Ottawa is looking to overhaul its Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, most agri-businesses (59%) say they would be in favor of a multi-employer work permit as an option, to enable employers to share a foreign worker, finds new research by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

However, the majority of agri-business owners don’t support sectoral and/or regional work permits whether it’s under the current (59%) or a new program structure where a third party would recruit and dispatch a pool of foreign workers (50%), as they fear such permits could facilitate employee poaching and hinder retention.

“While government is reviewing its TFW program, it needs to consider the practical needs of agri-businesses and the future of Canada’s food security,” said Juliette Nicolaÿ, CFIB’s policy analyst. “Farmers are already struggling with chronic staffing shortages and when they turn to foreign labor, it’s only as a last resort because they can’t find anyone locally. That’s concerning given Canada’s aging population and a perceived lack of interest among Canadian workers in a career in agriculture.”

CFIB data found that three in 10 agri-businesses hired foreign workers in 2023. The reliance on foreign workers is even more pronounced in certain regions, such as Quebec (51%), and sub-sectors characterized by labor-intensive tasks, such as the fruits, vegetable and horticultural specialties (64%). According to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), among employers who hired TFWs, 92% said foreign workers helped them meet demand for their products or services, while 89% said that TFWs helped them stay in business.

Myths surrounding TFWs
According to the CFIB, here are many misconceptions around the program, such as that TFWs aren’t paid sufficient wages or they’re mistreated by their employers. In fact, most (85%) TFWs are paid the same wage as Canadians, and only 3.5% are paid less. The federal government also conducts regular inspections to ensure health and safety of foreign workers, with 94% of employers inspected found to be compliant on 26 different criteria, according to ESDC.

“While there may be isolated bad actors that should not be tolerated, agri-businesses highly value foreign workers, and they take time and effort to bring TFWs to Canada. They cover costs that go beyond wages like housing, transport, and health care. It is also common for farmers to have the same TFWs come back year after year. Some also sponsor foreign workers to become permanent residents,” said Francesca Basta, CFIB’s research analyst.

For more information:
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva
Tel.: +1 647-464-2814
Email: [email protected]

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