Canada Seeks to Reduce Dependency on Foreign Workers and International Students, Minister Asserts

ByDayne Lee

Feb 10, 2024

In a significant policy shift, Canada is moving to address its reliance on temporary foreign labor and international students, a trend that has sparked concerns among various sectors of the economy. Immigration Minister Marc Miller has initiated measures to curtail the influx of these temporary residents, sparking a debate on the balance between economic demands and the integrity of the nation’s immigration system.

Context of the Policy Shift

Canada’s economy has long benefited from the contributions of temporary foreign workers and international students. However, the rapid increase in their numbers has led to unintended consequences, including escalating housing costs and a strain on public sentiment towards the current immigration framework. This situation presents a complex challenge for the Canadian government, which is seeking to navigate the fine line between economic needs and maintaining a sustainable immigration strategy.

Measures to Regulate Temporary Residency

Miller’s approach to reforming Canada’s dependency on temporary foreign workers and international students began with a significant reduction in foreign student visas by 35 percent for the current year. Further steps include plans to limit off-campus work hours for students and a comprehensive review of the temporary foreign worker program. These initiatives aim to address the “addiction” to temporary labor, as described by Miller, which some industries have exploited to lower labor costs.

Economic and Social Implications

The surge in temporary residents, particularly students and workers filling roles in farms, factories, and educational institutions, has had a broad impact on Canadian society. With more than 2.5 million non-permanent residents, making up over six percent of the population, the rapid growth has contributed to rising rents and house prices, challenging the affordability and availability of housing for Canadians.

Table: Overview of Policy Changes and Their Impact

Policy ChangeExpected Impact
Reduction in foreign student visasDecrease in the number of international students, potentially easing housing demand.
Limitation on off-campus work hoursReduction in work opportunities for students, affecting their income and experience.
Review of temporary foreign worker programTighter controls on temporary labor, addressing wage suppression concerns.

Reaction from Business and Community Groups

The proposed changes have met with resistance from business groups and community leaders, who argue that domestic labor supply is insufficient to meet the needs of certain economic sectors. Critics, like Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, express concern that these reforms could have unintended consequences, especially for smaller and rural communities reliant on migrant labor.

Balancing Act: Economic Needs vs. Immigration Integrity

Miller’s initiatives reflect a broader effort to recalibrate Canada’s immigration and labor policies in response to current challenges. By tightening regulations on student visas and the temporary foreign worker program, the government aims to ensure that economic growth does not compromise the principles of its immigration system or exacerbate social issues like housing affordability.

The Debate on Work Hours for International Students

A specific area of contention is the policy allowing international students to work up to 40 hours off-campus, introduced as a temporary measure during pandemic-related labor shortages. While over 80 percent of students are working more than 20 hours a week, the government plans to adjust this policy to permit more than 20 but less than 40 hours of work, striking a balance between labor market needs and students’ welfare.

Economic and Social Outcomes of Migration

High levels of immigration and temporary residency have been instrumental in sustaining Canada’s economic growth, even in the face of rising interest rates. However, the influx of foreign students and workers has also been linked to inflationary pressures and instances where educational institutions exploit international students for profit, raising ethical and economic concerns.

As Canada prepares for the economic ramifications of these policy shifts, the debate continues on the best path forward. The government’s efforts to limit temporary migration, while controversial, underscore the need for a holistic approach that considers the long-term sustainability of Canada’s economic and social fabric.

The unfolding dialogue on immigration and labor policies in Canada highlights the complexities of managing economic growth, labor market needs, and social cohesion in a globalized world. As the government navigates these challenges, the outcomes of these policy adjustments will be closely watched by stakeholders across the spectrum.


Featured image credit: Hafiz Johari via Shutterstock

Dayne Lee

I have a background that includes experience as a day trader in the financial sector before transitioning into my current role as an editor. My focus is on ensuring our stories are accurate and engaging for our readers, and I enjoy collaborating with our writers to provide the best news coverage possible. This journey from finance to writing has been both challenging and rewarding.