Thursday, September 5, 2013

Two studies on migrant workers

A couple of interesting studies about migrant workers have been released:

StatCan has released Interprovincial employees in Alberta which examines the growth of interprovincial worker migrancy (residing in one province and working in another) between 2003 and 2010. There was significant growth in Alberta’s migrant workforce between 2004 and 2008 followed by a decline in 2009. Ongoing interprovincial migrancy appears to be displacing inter-provincial immigration.

Interprovincial migrants are most likely from Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, with Ontario and Saskatchewan also making significant contributions. The majority of migrants were male and employed in construction, energy, accommodation and food services, and retail jobs.

Employment and Social Development Canada also released an internal review of the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program over the summer. The review is generally upbeat (not surprising) but there are a few items.

Where employment standards violations occur the most commonly identified issues were work hours, overtime pay, or job duties being different than specified.
Those workers who said their job was somewhat or much worse than expected (6% of SAWs, 7% of lower-skilled workers, 7% of high-skilled workers, and 11% of live-in caregivers) noted that the work is different or involves extra duties, the position involves less responsibility or requires less skill, the work is harder, the working conditions are tougher, the manager is not effective or supportive, the pay is less than expected, or the hours of work are different. (Section 3.2.2)
Interestingly, Alberta does not share any data about employment standards violations with the feds, which means that no Alberta employers are going to be blacklisted for violations. This seems to be a significant loop-hole that eliminates the major disincentive for employers to exploit these workers through rights violations.

There is lip service paid to the potential impact of the TFW program on the Canadian labour market, but little real investigation:
The key concern is that, by reducing the imbalance between the demand and supply of labour, the TFWP could constrain the wages offered to Canadians and permanent residents. Key informants also raised concerns regarding the increasing long-term reliance of employers on the TFWP. About one-quarter of stakeholders suggested that, due to access to the TFWP, employers may invest less in the training of Canadians, spend less time and effort to find Canadian workers to fill the positions, and pay less than prevailing wages to TFWs. (Section 3.2.3)
The government has promised a review of the economic impact of the TFW program in 2013/14, including the impact upon domestic wages and working conditions (Management Response 7).

-- Bob Barnetson

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