TFWs’ employment shifts to low-paying jobs: Report

40% of all temporary foreign workers work in just three sectors, finds StatCan

TFWs’ employment shifts to low-paying jobs: Report

Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada have shifted to working in low-paying jobs in the country in the previous decade, according to a recent report from Statistics Canada (StatCan).

In 2020, of the 860,900 total temporary foreign workers in the country, 17.3% worked in accommodation and food services, 13.5% in retail trade and 12.2% worked in administrative and support, waste management and remediation services.

In 2019, of the 851,700 total temporary foreign workers in Canada, 20.4% worked in accommodation and food services, 12.3% in retail trade and 12.0% worked in administrative and support, waste management and remediation services.

Comparable data for these sectors in 2010 – when there were a total of 347,300 TFWs in the country – were 16.8%, 8.0% and 7.9%, respectively. 

Collectively, the three sectors accounted for 43% of all TFWs in 2020 and 45% of all TFWs in 2019, up from just 33% in 2010. 

“This proportion decreased to 43% in 2020 because of the decline in the number of TFWs working in accommodation and food services, which was impacted by business restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said report authors Yuqian Lu and Feng Hou, who are with the Social Analysis and Modelling Division, Analytical Studies and Modelling Branch, at StatCan.

The increased concentration of TFW employment in accommodation and food services; retail trade and administrative and support, waste management and remediation services can be attributed to “the large expansion of individuals holding” International Mobility Program (IMP) work permits and study permits and “the growing trend of study permit holders seeking employment in these sectors,” said the authors.

They explained that from 2010 to 2019, the number of TFWP permit holders remained relatively stable, and their proportion working in the three sectors decreased from 23% to 14%. 

Meanwhile, the number of individuals with IMP work permits nearly tripled, with their proportion working in the three sectors experiencing a slight increase from 42% to 45%. 

“Notably, the number of study permit holders reporting employment income surged more than ninefold, and their share working in the three sectors rose from 12% to 65%,” said Lu and Hou.

Job seekers from outside Canada have shown far greater interest in coming to work in the country, according to a previous Indeed report.

Low wages for TFWs

According to separate data from StatCan, those who worked in accommodation and food services had a median wage of $17,430 in 2019 and $12,690 in 2020, based on 2021 constant dollars. Those who worked in retail trade had a median wage of $24,210 in 2019 and $22,200 in 2020. There was no comparable data for those who worked in administrative and support, waste management and remediation services.

The median wage across all industries was $40,910 in 2019 and $41,220 in 2020.

In current dollar values, the average hourly wage rate for workers in accommodation and food services in Canada was $16.57 in 2019 and $17.02 in 2020, according to another set of data from StatCan. For those in wholesale and retail trade, the comparable data were $22.01 in 2019 and $23.03 in 2020. There was no comparable information for those in administrative and support, waste management and remediation services. Across all industries, the average hourly rate in 2019 was $30.03. In 2020, it was $30.67.

Effective at the start of this year, Nunavut has the highest minimum wage in Canada at $19 per hour.

Aside from the three sectors, a substantial number of TFWs were also employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; manufacturing; professional, scientific and technical services; and educational services, noted Lu and Hou in their report titled Foreign workers in Canada: Distribution of paid employment by industry.

“Together, these industries accounted for approximately 31% of the total TFW workforce in 2010. The share decreased to 28% in 2020,” they said.

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