The number of temporary foreign workers and students increased exponentially between 2000 and 2018, according to Statistics Canada. Over half, 59%, of new economic-class principal applicants in 2018 were former temporary foreign workers, up from just 12% at the turn of the millennium.
More temporary foreign workers also transitioned to permanent residence with the help of more Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) and the introduction of the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) in 2009. The CEC admitted 20% of all economic-class principal applicants in 2018, while the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) admitted 25%. PNPs issued the largest share at 46%.
These findings come from the second installment of a five-part StatsCan study series being done in partnership with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The studies examine the increasing importance of temporary foreign workers in the labour market outcomes of new immigrants. Only three studies have been released so far.
Arriving in a country as a worker or student, and then becoming a permanent resident is referred to as “two-step” immigration selection. Under this process, students or skilled migrants first get temporary residence and have their credentials evaluated by Canadian employers. Then the temporary residents apply for immigration and are selected based on the criteria outlined in Canada’s federal or provincial immigration programs.
The first study finds that two-step immigration can improve the match between immigrant skills and labour market demands. Employers are able to directly assess the skills and intangible qualities of the temporary worker. It also found that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted potential issues associated with dependence on temporary foreign workers, such as labour supply uncertainty, and poor working conditions for employees.
The second study documents the evolution of two-step immigration selection since 2000. Between 2000 and 2018 the number of temporary foreign workers went up from about 60,000 to 429,300.
The third looks at two-step immigration and labour market outcomes. The study found that between 2000 and 2016 more immigrants had positive annual earnings in the first full year after immigration. The increase in employment was attributed to the rising number of immigrants who had worked in Canada at medium annual earnings (between $20,000 and $50,000 per year) and high annual earnings (over $50,000).
These findings suggest that immigrants with Canadian experience are, generally, finding more employment and making more annual earnings. The federal government’s initiatives to create more pathways for foreigners with Canadian experience seems to have helped improve these outcomes.
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