Canada should build skilled workforce from within, not rely on Temporary Foreign Workers

CALGARY, May 7, 2013 /CNW/ - Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks. A report published today by The School of Public Policy examines the effect of the program on the supply and demand of domestic labour. Author Kevin McQuillan finds that there is no general labour shortage here in Canada that would warrant a reliance on foreign workers. Instead, he argues that Canada needs to scale back the TFWP and build a skilled workforce from within.

"The number of admissions under the TFWP has nearly tripled in 25 years, from 65,000 to 182,000 in 2010," McQuillan writes. "The primary justification for the expansion of the program has been the widespread assumption that Canada is suffering from a growing shortage of labour. Yet, it is hard to find any evidence to support this belief."

He does concede that there are worker shortages in specific industries and specific regions. However, Canada can respond to these challenges without relying on foreign workers by promoting success for younger workers here at home.

Specifically, industry and government need to encourage more young people to pursue an education and careers in fields where jobs are available. McQuillan highlights two potential methods for altering enrollment patterns in post-secondary institutions: strategic funding by government into schools/programs that match labour market needs, and variable pricing tuition, which would mean charging more for programs in fields where there is already an excess of labour.

McQuillan also argues the Canadian government and employers need to work together to reduce barriers to the mobility of labour across provinces, including the perceived costs of migration. Some form of incentive, such as a tax break, could be employed to encourage displacement. Government and employers should also work closely together on recruitment initiatives in areas of high unemployment.

In addition to the scaling back of the TFWP, McQuillan advocates a series of other immigration policies that can help Canada build a stronger workforce.

  • Holding the immigration rate close to the current rate of roughly 0.7 per cent of the population
  • Consider linking admissions to the business cycle: trimming targets in recessions and increasing them during buoyant economic times
  • Develop consistent national standards for education and language ability for all admitted in the economic class

The report can be found at

SOURCE: The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary

For further information:

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Morten Paulsen
Phone: 403.399.3377

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The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary

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