'A removal of the 20-hour work limit gives migrant student workers the power to leave bad jobs and to speak up against exploitation and mistreatment'
International students in Canada are calling on the federal government to extend a rule allowing them to work more than 20 hours per week.
The 20 hours per week limit exposes them to exploitation and financial hardships amidst soaring cost of living, they claimed.
“Our living expenses are really high in Canada, and it is very hard for them to manage,” said Damanpreet Singh, the International Students' Commissioner at the Canadian Federation of Students in a report from The Pie News.
Some students holding supervisory or other senior positions might be compelled to step down if unable to work full-time, said Singh.
Last year, Ottawatemporarily suspended the limit on international students' work hours to address labor shortages, but this policy is slated to conclude on Dec. 31, 2023.
Singh also claimed that strict limits on work hours expose students to exploitation, because it forces some to choose between illegal work for employers or being unable to sustain themselves in Canada, according to The Pie News report.
Sarom Rho, organizer at Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, meanwhile called for a complete removal of the ban on working hours.
“A removal of the 20-hour work limit gives migrant student workers the power to leave bad jobs and to speak up against exploitation and mistreatment,” said Rho via The Pie News.
“If [Immigration] minister Miller does not make the change to permanently remove the 20-hour work limit then, come January 1, students are going to continue to be working jobs but will be denied labour rights and protections and that’s bad for all of us.”
Some international students and advocate groups have previously called on the federal government to make the ban on the cap on working hours permanent, according to a CBC report.
"The past year has been quite good in terms of finances because I could work 40 hours a week and have been able to pay off my tuition fees," said Krunal Chavda, an international student at the University of Saskatchewan, in the report. The 20-year-old said he was able to pay off $10,000 of his $40,000 student loans thanks to working full-time.
Chavda said inflation has upped his grocery budget from as low as $100 to as much as $300 a month, according to the CBC report released last month.
The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change has been calling for this change since 2017, according to CBC.
The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is currently assessing the impact of the lifting of the ban on working hours, one IRCC spokesperson told The Pie News. The government agency is also holding ongoing engagement with provinces, territories and stakeholders.
In September, changes to Quebe’s Bill 19 pertaining to the working hours allowed for young workers took effect.