A number of recent announcements from the Government of Canada address the ongoing labour shortage impacting employers across the country. Compared to the same month pre-COVID, tourism’s labour force has 154,800 fewer individuals, despite increasing demand for travel products and services. This gap impacts service levels, contributes to worker burnout, and impedes the full recovery of the hard-hit sector.
Given demographic trends, demand for labour will only accelerate over the coming years. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Canada’s aging population means that the worker-to-retiree ratio is expected to shift from 7:1 fifty years ago to 2:1 by 2035. Immigration accounts for almost 100% of Canada’s labour force growth and, by 2032, is projected to account for 100% of Canada’s population growth.
Current and incoming changes to immigration policies and programs will provide a broader range of opportunities to newcomers and support employers in meeting their workforce needs. Employers are encouraged to connect with organizations that help connect immigrants, refugees, temporary foreign workers, and international students with employment opportunities and to examine their attraction and retention efforts through a diversity and inclusion lens.
Here is a summary of the policy changes that are helping to increase the talent pool available to tourism employers.
Increasing the Number of Possible International Experience Canada Program Applicants
Under the International Experience Canada (IEC) Program, Canada has youth mobility arrangements with 36 countries and foreign territories—these allow individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 (depending on the jurisdiction) to work and travel in Canada for up to two years. Earlier this month, the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced a 20% increase to the number of potential applicants to IEC. The increase equates to nearly 90,000 candidates being able to partake in the program, many of whom seek the flexible and seasonal work offered by tourism employers.
Lifting the Cap on Off-Campus Work Hours for International Students
Through to December 31, 2023, international students who are in Canada and who have off-campus work authorization on their study permit will no longer be subject to the 20-hour-per-week rule limiting their capacity to work while pursuing full-time studies. This change impacts more than 500,000 international students currently in Canada. Many of these students seek part-time employment to help with the costs of their studies and to acquire Canadian work experience.
Extending Work Permits to Family Members of Temporary Foreign Workers
Starting in January 2023, Canada will expand the eligibility for work permits to spouses and working-age children of temporary foreign workers. This two-year measure will be implemented as a phased approach for workers at all skill levels, including families of workers in tourism. As a result of this new approach, it is estimated that family members of more than 200,000 foreign workers have the opportunity to work in Canada, addressing the labour needs of employers across the country.
Implementing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Workforce Solutions Road Map
Last spring, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced five key policy changes to respond to labour and skills shortages. The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program Workforce Solutions Road Map seeks to adjust and improve the program to ensure it meets current needs, including labour shortages, worker protections, and pathways to permanent residency. Several changes directly address the severe labour shortages impacting tourism-related industries.
Expanding the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot for Refugees
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will work with employers, trusted partners, and communities across the country to welcome 2,000 skilled refugees to fill specific labour shortages in high-demand sectors, including chef and cooks. The Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP) will take place over the coming few years, but as of October 2022, Canada had already welcomed over 100 skilled refugees and their family members under the EMPP.