The latest data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reveals the number of foreign nationals in Canada as temporary workers spiked last year and hit a new record level.
By the end of last year, the IRCC had handed out 608,420 work permits to foreign nationals under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and International Mobility Program (IMP).
That’s an almost 47 per cent rise in work permits compared to the then-record level of 414,000 work permits issued to foreign nationals under these two programs in 2021.
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The TFWP and IMP are the two main programs through which foreign nationals can get work permits to land jobs in Canada.
The TFWP offers work permits for candidates whose employers obtain a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). A positive LMIA confirms there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job at hand and that no Canadian worker is available to do the job.
IMP work permits do not require a positive LMIA. They do, however, require the employer to submit an employment offer under their employer portal.
Although Canada had a record level of immigration last year with 437,120 new permanent residents, the number of foreign nationals with work permits is far greater than that.
There were almost 39.2 per cent more foreign nationals working in Canada with temporary work permits last year than there were new permanent residents in the country.
Work Permits Issued Annually More Than Doubled Over Six Years
With the latest increase, the number of foreign nationals with work permits in Canada has more than doubled from the 301,190 work permit holders six years earlier, in 2017.
The bulk of the increase in foreign nationals with work permits last year came through the IMP which issued an additional 161,410 work permits, or 52 per cent more, than the 310,660 in 2021 to hit 472,070 last year.
The IMP has more than doubled since 2017 when it issued only 222,720 work permits.
With the exception of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of work permits issued through the IMP and TFWP combined has been growing steadily since 2015 when the IRCC granted 249,280 permits under the programs.
That grew by 14.8 per cent to 286,015 in 2016 and then by a more modest 5.3 per cent to hit 301,190 in 2017.
The following year, in 2018, the number of work permits through the IMP and TFWP combined grew by 12 per cent to 337,365 work permits and then by another 19 per cent in the last full year before the pandemic, in 2019, when the IRCC handed out 401,575 work permits through those two programs.
As immigration to Canada plummeted during the first year of the pandemic, so too did the number of work permits for foreign nationals here under the IMP and TFWP. That year, the number of work permits under those programs fell by 19.2 per cent, back down to 324,620.
The following year, 2021, more than made up for the temporary downturn as the number of work permits under those programs jumped 27.5 per cent to hit 414,000.
TFWP Posted 31.9% Growth In Work Permits Last Year
The TFWP itself had lower numbers than the IMP last year but still managed to post an impressive 31.9 per cent growth, hitting a record-breaking 136,350 work permits.
That compares to only 72,965 in 2015. Since then, the TFWP has also grown fairly steadily, with the exceptions of 2017 and 2020.
In 2016, the TFWP issued 7.5 per cent more work permits to foreign nationals than in the previous year for a total of 78,450.
The following year, the numbers stayed almost the same, with 78,470 work permits, but the program issued seven per cent more permits in 2018, to hit 84,000, and enjoyed a 16.7 per cent boost in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic when there were 98,030 work permits issued.
During the first year of the pandemic, work permits issued under the TFWP fell as total immigration dropped. There were only 84,105 work permits issued under the program that year, a decline of 14.2 per cent.
In 2021, though, the TFWP rebounded by 22.9 per cent with what was then a record 103,340 work permits issued.
Foreign nationals seeking work permits to come to Canada tend to be overwhelmingly men. In the TFWP, the 113,715 men who obtained permits to work in Canada last year outnumbered the 22,630 women by a ratio of five to one.
The IMP achieved something closer to gender parity in the issuance of work permits with 218,085 women getting work permits through the program compared to 253,950 men. Among those deemed to be highly-skilled workers in the IMP program, though, men still outnumbered women by a ratio of more than two to one.