Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) have been in the news a lot lately. Almost two weeks ago, the federal government suspended the TFW program in the fast-food industry, citing abuses of the system. Other industries have also blamed the system for stealing jobs from Canadians and even killing their industry.
Canada expanded its Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2008, in an effort to ease the demand for unskilled labour. In many ways, these TFWs were brought in to perform jobs that Canadians didn’t want to do (janitorial work, fast-food, menial labour, etc.). This does not “take jobs” away from Canadians; rather, it frees up Canadians to perform more skilled labour—at higher wages—which boosts the economy. One argument I heard was that TFWs are coming to Canada and simply sending their money back home. Although they may send some money home—known as a remittance—the impacts on the economy of an increase to consumption (resulting from immigration of the TFW) far outweighs the amount of the remittance.
The link above points to an article about helicopter pilots who are complaining that the TFW program is killing the industry. If we look at hours pilots have worked per week over the past 13+ years, we actually see that hours have been steadily declining far before the TFW program was boosted in 2008 (from 36.6 hours per week in February 2001 to 30.2 in February 2014). Note that the decline also precedes the recession.
(Source: Statistics Canada. Table 281-0032)
Although I won’t deny that TFWs are probably being abused in the fast-food industry, that is another argument. To use them as a scapegoat—especially when the cause of a declining industry probably points elsewhere—is unfair.