Temporary Foreign Workers Program

Some temporary foreign workers come to Canada with open work permits, meaning that they can work in any occupation. In 2010, there were about 58,500 entries by Open Work Permit holders, including young people coming to Canada on a working holiday or exchange; spouses of skilled temporary foreign workers; and so on. The fastest growing category of open work permits is in the youth exchange programs with roughly 50,000 entries in 2010. Participants in youth exchange programs represent about 27% of all temporary foreign workers coming to Canada and a growing share of the temporary worker movement.

With regard to connections to permanent residence, in 2010, close to 33,000 former temporary foreign workers immigrated to Canada permanently, a considerable increase from the 9,500 that made the transition in 2002. The number of temporary foreign workers transitioning to permanent residence in Alberta grew from 1,129 in 2002 to 7,155 in 2010, an increase of 534%. Research shows that skilled permanent residents with previous Canadian work experience more often have positive economic outcomes and can contribute quickly to the Canadian economy and labour market. For instance, immigrants who worked in Canada for at least one year in a skilled occupation prior to applying under the Federal Skilled Worker Program earned 27% more that those who did not have Canadian work experience prior to migration

In Alberta, there are some notable differences in the trends of temporary foreign workers when compared to those across Canada as a whole. During the economic boom, the number of TFWs entering in lower-skilled occupations increased from 1,626 in 2002 to 16,583 in 2008, an increase of over 920% in 6 years, and surpassed the number of higher skilled temporary foreign workers. While the number of skilled temporary foreign workers also increased during this period from 6,293 in 2002 to 15,935 in 2008, the growth was significantly less marked than for temporary foreign workers in lower-skilled occupations. It is also important to note that during the recent economic slowdown, the number of lower skilled temporary foreign workers entering Alberta dropped to 7,070 in 2010, a decrease of 56% in two years, which suggests that employer demand for temporary foreign workers in lower-skilled occupation varies more widely when economic conditions change.

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