Foreign workers: a visa for low-skilled profiles?


This is one of the recommendations made by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) to stem recurring labour needs. In a recent study, the organization also reverses some myths concerning the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program.


Facing a shortage of Canadian profiles, some SMEs turn to the TFW program to fill their positions. The Federal Government introduced amendments to the program, making it slower and mostly more expensive for the small proportion of SMEs who use it, the CFIB stresses in its report, “Taking the Temporary Out of the TFW Program." published in December. The federation, while underscoring the usefulness of the program, debunks the allegations made against the TFW program in recent months.


Nobody challenges the shortage of manpower in Canada. Yet it is a major problem for 51% of Canadian entrepreneurs, according to the CFIB survey. For 33% of employers it is a factor in slowing their production or sales. These recruitment difficulties have severe repercussions; longer hours for 71% of company administrators, hiring of poor quality candidates for 68% of respondents and low productivity for 53% of them.


Hiring via the TFWP by 10% of SMEs


Some doubt the willingness of entrepreneurs to make the effort required to attract Canadian workers. Yet 93% ask their entourage to refer a candidate, 69% publish ads on the Internet, 64% in newspapers. 73% say they have recruited beyond their geographical boundaries, 72% have increased wages, 46% offered more flexible hours. On the other hand, only a small part of SMEs have resorted to the TFWP, that is to say 14% of business leaders surveyed, and 10% have managed to hire a foreign worker through this program.


Another mistaken allegation: initiating an undertaking via the TFW program would be easy. However, 62% describe the speed of the process as poor. 30% give a lower average score to the cost of the process and 32% to the availability of information. And among the reasons why SMEs fail to hire through the TFWP, 64% of entrepreneurs point to the delays and 41% to the complexity of administrative paperwork. 30% of those surveyed had to wait 13 to 24 weeks for their application to be processed. Finally, another myth that is collapsing: the costs to an enterprise are not high. And yet: it costs between $5,000 to $10,000 per worker. Yet, despite all these obstacles, 84% of respondents state that the TFWP is 'rather useful' or 'very useful' to resolve their recruitment problems.


Opening the way to permanent residencies


CFIB shares its concerns about changes made to the TFWP last year that could make the program even more expensive and more restrictive, while limiting access to it. The changes introduced in June 2014 would only make the situation worse. The federation affirms that no company should be denied the possibility of establishing its need to use the TFW program. They would also like to see a separate component for companies in the  accommodation and food industries and retail sectors, which would restore their access to the TFW program.


Among other recommendations contained in the study is the facilitation of permanent residency procedures for all temporary foreign workers. Each year thousands of low-skilled temporary foreign workers arrive in Canada. They cannot access permanent residency because it is reserved for more specialised workers or those with a higher level of education. They then emphasize the importance of establishing transitional measures to allow temporary foreign workers currently in Canada and whose application for permanent residence is being evaluated to remain in the country and work here until the process has been completed. This could be achieved by extending work visas. Finally, it also reiterates the need to establish a Charter of Rights for temporary foreign workers in order to protect this vulnerable population.


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