Canadian corporations using more immigrants for low-skill jobs

Between 2010 and 2019, the number of immigrants working in low-skilled jobs in Canada has increased.

Statistics Canada recently released a report on how immigration is being used as a supply of labour in Canada. I thought I’d highlight some of the interesting parts of the report.

One of the first things that stuck out to me is the contrast between where Canadian-born workers and immigrant workers labour.

For example, check out this table, which shows the change in the number of workers between 2010 and 2019.

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We see that in every category, the number of immigrant workers is greater than the number of Canadian-born workers. In the managerial and so-called low-skilled groups, there was a net decrease in Canadian-born workers.

The increase in immigrants in the managerial group wasn’t enough to offset the decrease among that demographic, but it was enough to offset the decline in the low-skilled jobs.

In fact, there were, technically, roughly 900,000 more immigrant workers in the low-skilled group than there were Canadian-born workers.

The Stats Can report breaks down the immigrant numbers further.

NewRecent Long-term TFWs

The largest demographic of immigrant workers are those who have been here long-term, or at least 10 years. That makes sense, given that as new immigrant workers and recent immigrant workers remain in Canada, they transition into being long-term immigrant workers.

And it’s for that reason that recent immigrants—those who have been here under 10 years—make up the second largest group.

However, watch what happens when we break these numbers down by percentage of total workers.


This table shows that temporary foreign workers account for a larger share of new low-skilled workers, relative to all the new temporary foreign workers between 2010 and 2019, at over 41%.

Recent immigrants had the second highest share of low-skilled workers, at 38.44% of all recent immigrant workers.

Overall, immigrant workers accounted for nearly 84% of all employment growth over the previous decade, making up 1.546 million of the 1.845 million in total new workers in Canada.

In fact, 405,800 immigrants were admitted just in 2021, the highest level in the history.

In 2019, the final year in this reporting period, temporary foreign workers accounted for 4.1% of the total T4 earners in Canada. In 2010, however, the first year of this period, that number was just 1.9%.

There are just 7 sectors where temporary foreign workers made up a larger percentage of total workers than their overall average of 4.1% in 2019.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting14.7%
Accommodation and food services9.9%
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services9.7%
Professional, scientific and technical services5.5%
Retail trade5.0%
Arts, entertainment and recreation5.0%
Information and cultural industries4.7%

And in every one of those industries, the share of temporary foreign workers has increased since 2010.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting7.8%14.7%
Accommodation and food services4.6%9.9%
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services2.9%9.7%
Professional, scientific and technical services2.5%5.5%
Arts, entertainment and recreation3.7%5.0%
Retail trade1.3%5.0%
Information and cultural industries1.4%4.7%

And this isn’t surprising considering that between 2000 and 2021, the number of temporary foreign workers increased by 700%, from 111,000 to 777,000

The number of international students working in Canada also increased between 2010 and 2019.

For example, there were 62,360 international students with T4 earnings at the start of the decade and 353,490 at the end of the decade. That’s a 466.85% increase.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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