Nanos Poll: Majority of Canadians support influx of Temporary Foreign Workers

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: January 23, 2024

According to a recent Nanos Research poll, a significant majority of Canadians recognize the importance of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) to the country's economy.

The survey of 1,006 people, conducted online and over the phone between December 27 and 29 last year, revealed that over 80% of Canadians “feel that temporary foreign workers are important to the country’s economy.”

Note: The results of this poll, conducted by Nanos for the Globe and Mail, were released on January 9, 2023.

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This revelation comes around the same time as another Nanos poll last September revealed growing numbers opposed to increased immigration.

Growing general opposition against immigration across Canada

In contrast with the results of this most recent poll, the Nanos Research poll from September 2023 revealed that over half of Canadians surveyed expressed a desire for Canada to welcome fewer immigrants than the figure targeted by the federal government.

Up from 34% in March last year, 53% of survey respondents in September indicated that “they want to see Canada accept fewer immigrants than the federal plan.” This desire also extended specifically to Canada’s international student population, as the same September poll revealed that “55% of Canadians want Canada to accept fewer international students than the 900,000 expected by the government.”

Temporary resident population growth in Canada

In light of a declining level of national support for immigration, it is worth understanding where much of Canada’s recent immigration growth has come from.

According to data released by Statistics Canada (StatsCan) in December, Canada’s population grew by more than 430,000 during the third quarter of 2023. This increase, which according to StatsCan estimates was driven largely by immigration, included “about 313,000 non-permanent residents [who mostly] came to Canada on work or study permits.”

Canadians support TFWs coming to Canada for specific employment

Despite a growing sentiment against increased immigration, the Nanos poll released in January indicates that Canadians “are more supportive of migrants coming to do specific jobs.”

According to Nanos Research chairman Nik Nanos, “when it comes to people coming to Canada for a purpose, such as temporary foreign workers, there’s pretty good levels of support and acceptance.”

On one hand, general support for welcoming more “temporary foreign workers for jobs” was expressed by 57% of Canadians who took part in the Nanos poll in December. According to polling details, this support is highest in Canada’s Atlantic provinces among people older than 55. The poll also notes that 49% of respondents in the Prairie provinces indicated support for an increase.

In addition, 35% of Canadians said they oppose allowing more temporary foreign workers to come to Canada for jobs. Among all provinces and territories across Canada, Nanos found that this opposition was strongest in Ontario, the Prairies and British Columbia.

However, the January Nanos poll also found that 79% of Canadians “support employers bringing temporary foreign workers into Canada to help fill jobs they can’t find Canadians to do.” This type of support for TFWs was found to be strongest in Atlantic Canada as well as Quebec and weakest in Ontario and Canada’s prairie provinces.

Government response to the shifting sentiment around immigration in Canada

Acknowledging that there is a “correlation between [Canada’s] influx of international students and temporary workers and the [national] housing shortage in Canada” according to a recent Globe and Mail story, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said he plans to “rein in” the number of temporary foreign workers coming to Canada.

This was also mentioned in a recent CBC News story, where Miller was also quoted as saying that the federal government may need to look into “really controlling the volume” of temporary residents coming to Canada.

To accomplish this, according to the Globe and Mail, Miller has suggested that reforms may be coming to both Canada’s “Post-Graduate Work Permit [PGWP] system for international students … as well as the temporary foreign workers program.”

According to Miller, as quoted again in the same Globe and Mail story, “both [the PGWP and the TFW program] represent increased volume that we’ve seen jump astronomically in the last few years, even when you net out the period during COVID-19.”

It’s something that has created some unanticipated effects and something we need to rein in. I’m prepared to do it.”

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