Temporary help wanted

As Canadian employers face the lowest unemployment rate in decades, they’re moving to fill roles with temporary foreign workers (or TFW, for short), per The Globe and Mail. 

  • In the first three months of 2022, the federal government greenlit ~44,200 positions for employers through the TFW program, the highest number in at least five years. 

Why it matters: There are over one million open roles in Canada right now, many of which don’t actually pay enough to attract Canadian workers (which the TFW program aims to fill). 

  • Farming work was by far the most in-demand, making up ~21,000 of total approvals. Cooks came in second at ~2,100, followed by greenhouse workers at ~1,900.
  • Maple Leaf Foods has ramped up its use of the program and Recipe, which owns restaurant chains like Harvey’s and the Keg, is helping its franchisees adopt it. 

Zoom out: The federal government updated the TFW program back in April to give companies more access to low-wage workers from abroad to address labour shortages. 

Yes, but: Some economists say the move could stop employers from raising wages for domestic workers or making investments that improve productivity across the economy. 

  • Labour advocates have also voiced concerns about closed permits that tie to one employer, and point to past cases of unpaid wages and unsafe living conditions. 

Big picture: To hire through the TFW program, employers have to prove that not a single soul in Canada wants to do the work, but there’s a fine line between providing opportunities to foreign workers and over-indexing on crummy jobs because it’s the easier option.