International Students Encouraged to Solve Canada’s Growing Labour Shortage
On Tuesday, October 7, 2022, the Honorable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), announced the temporary lifting of the 20-hour-per-week cap on the number of hours that eligible post-secondary students are allowed to work off-campus, while school is in session.
Beginning November 15, 2022, at 12:00am ET until December 31, 2023, at 11:59pm ET, international students who are residing in Canada and who have off-campus work authorization on their study permit will no longer be restricted by the 20-hour-per-week rule. According to a news release posted by the office of the Minister, “Foreign nationals who have already submitted a study permit application, as of today, will also be able to benefit from this temporary change, provided their application is approved”.
Notably, the interim measure does not include a new limit on the maximum number of hours a student can work. With that being said, the Minister assured that this policy change is not a signal to students to compromise their studies by working more hours than they can commit; rather, students should continue to work as many hours as they are able to.
In explaining the purpose of this interim amendment, Minister Fraser claimed that the benefits are two-fold: the measure will allow international students to have greater opportunity to gain valuable work experience in Canada and will increase the availability of workers to sustain Canada’s post-pandemic economic growth. With more than 500,000 international students already in Canada available to potentially work additional hours, the IRCC claims that “this temporary change reflects the important role international students can play in addressing our labour shortage”.
Minister Fraser continued by stating that the IRCC is also beginning a pilot initiative this month to automate the processing of study permit extensions. The test will feature a select sample of candidates who may have their extended study permit processed much faster through the automated system. Since all applicants have previously been approved to study in Canada, the sorts of applications covered in this pilot have a consistently high acceptance rate. If the pilot program proves to be successful, it will be expanded to help reduce processing times and allow officers to focus on more complex applications.
While the amended policy may be very good news for employers seeking additional employees, there are many reasons to caution employers against hiring international students beyond 20-hours-per-week. First, one must ask who this policy benefits; is this amendment really in the best interest of the students? Or is it purely about combatting labour shortages and a fast and easy way for employers to tap into talent to address economic concerns caused by the pandemic?
With students working more hours, while taking a full-course load—as required by their study permit—students may be tempted to enroll in easier courses just to graduate and eventually apply for residency. With the cost of living and tuition for international students reaching unprecedented levels across Canada, international students may be led to offside their terms of study so that they can work more hours to meet their financial needs. In turn, this could place their future for immigration status in Canada at risk. This in turn could indirectly hurt employers who may have invested significant resources in training these students.
According to Statistics Canada, labour shortages are most acute in healthcare and social assistance industries, as both sectors currently have the largest need for labour of any sector in the country—representing 1 in 7 job vacancies in Canada. Considering these areas require years of education and specialized training, international students will not likely be able to meet this growing need. Healthcare employers are looking for graduates with high specialized skills and experience; meaning, there’s a mismatch in the labour needs and the labour opportunities created by the aforementioned interim measure.
Ultimately, the socio-economic structures in place may lead international students to fail; full-time jobs may detract students from their studies and make them less attractive to employers in the long-term. Make no mistake; this is not to say international students are at fault if they make the decision to take advantage of this interim measure by working more hours and dumbing down their courses. The onus is on the Canadian government to enact policy changes that serve Canadians, without creating more opportunities for abuse of vulnerable folks. Employers need to be mindful of relying on a student work force to meet their needs for full-time positions. The short-term benefits may not outweigh the long-term consequences.
If you would like to meet with one of our Canadian immigration law professionals to discuss this new interim measure, or any other immigration needs, we are happy to advise. Our Canadian immigration legal professionals can be reached by phone (416 368 1111) or via email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org