In recent months the Canadian Government’s “Temporary Foreign Worker Program” has come under heavy fire for its flagrant abuse by businesses across the country. Businesses have been using the program to outsource domestic jobs to workers from overseas.
This program was designed to fill job positions in Canada that those living here cannot or will not. Although a useful program in theory there are many issues that need to be addressed for it to be fair and successful.
One of the main economic drivers for employers to utilize this program is that they are allowed to pay the workers less than the minimum wage other Canadians need to be paid. This immediately incentives the over-subscription of this program by giving employers access to cheaper labour. The idea of the program should be that these workers are only here because there was no-one with the required skills to do the job in Canada already, not because the employer was unwilling to pay their employees enough to do the work. With this concept in mind workers in the program should be paid much more than the standard minimum wage due to the demand for their sought-after skills or ability to fill desperately needed positions in Canada. This policy will not only make it more attractive to hire Canadians but will make employers work harder to find a domestic solution to their problem before looking overseas.
Another consideration with this program is of the employees themselves. Many of the workers are from developing countries where they would be making a fraction of the already low salary the program currently allows. As such, they are much less likely to complain about pay, work environment, abuse, or health and safety concerns for fear of losing their job. To address this issue employees hired through this program should be required to take a government training course in Canada which will educate them about what is and isn’t allowed within the program and the rights of workers in Canada. This also needs to be paired with more stringent dismissal conditions and penalties such that employees within this program feel safe bringing forwards complains without the threat of immediate dismissal.
Finally there is the issue of the “Temporary” aspect of the program that is often overlooked. This temporary nature should apply not only to the workers stay in the country but the need for the position to be filled by someone through the program. There needs to be a requirement that using this program to fill an open position mandates steps be taken to train locals to fill the position on a more permanent basis. The program currently allows for a 2 year stay in Canada which should be plenty of time for employers to organize a more permanent domestic solution. Numerous businesses are claiming that they would have to close without the program as they would be left stranded without skilled workers. The truth is that many of these businesses have been using the Temporary Foreign Worker program for years without making any attempt to find and/or train a more permanent domestic solution.
The concept of an efficient way of finding workers overseas to fill desperately needed job openings in Canada is a well-recognized necessity. Unfortunately the structure of the current program is such that it was inevitable (if not by design) that it would be used to exploit the Canadian job market.