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TFWP Suffers Criticism

The scandal-tainted noise about the temporary foreign workers program (TFWP) is proving, to the Conservative government’s likely dismay, far from temporary.

Originally intended to help address a shortage of skilled labour in this country, particularly in the fast-food biz, the program has attracted a salvo of enduring censure for employers’ abuse thereof.

From the first — an allegation in April 2013 that the Royal Bank was hiring temporary foreign workers to replace 45 native-born IT staffers — to the latest — a complaint that two Saskatchewan waitresses lost their jobs while their temporary foreign worker (TFW) colleagues were spared the axe — this legislation has been smeared with bad blood.

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For those folks just getting with the program, an FYI on the TFWP:

• The TFWP is a federal initiative designed to allow Canadian companies’ hiring of foreign nationals. It was introduced in 1973.

• The feds have allowed companies to hire TFWs for jobs they can’t fill with Canadians since 2002. 

• Employers are supposed to advertise available positions for Canadian candidates, and only hire TFWs in their absence. The program’s first rule, as outlined on the Employment and Social Development Canada’s website, is “Canadians must always be first in line for available jobs.’’

• Between 2006 and 2014, more than 500,000 TFWs have been brought into Canada under the TFWP.

• TFWs are tied to the employer who brought them into the country and would have to leave Canada if they lost their jobs. 

• The program was the subject of heated debate between Harper and the opposition NDP party, which drew on CBC reports that some employers were bringing in TFWs to fill jobs for which local and available workers were collecting EI.

• In 2013, the CBC reported that 65 percent of recent newly created jobs in Saskatchewan were held by TFWs.

• Many opponents to the program argue that it should be replaced with other, simpler ways to tackle labour shortages in economically booming regions. They complain that the government has failed in its responsibility to ensure that there aren’t qualified Canadian workers who could take on the jobs filled by TFWs.

• In January 2014, in response to widespread employee frustration, Employment Minister Jason Kenney said the program would be subject to a second round of reforms.

• The Kenney blacklist — employers who have broken the rules or been suspended from the TFWP — includes three McDonald’s in Victoria, Jungle Jim’s in Labrador and The Boathouse in Fenelon Falls.

“Canadians are being denied jobs,” Shauna Jennison-Yung, one of the waitresses let go by Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza in Weyburn, SK, told the Globe this week. “There’s no way that we should be out there pounding the pavement, having to take an entry-level job, when we’ve worked our asses off to get where we are. It’s just not right.”

Bank of Canada Publishes Optimistic Hiring Outlook

Things look to finally be on the upswing for Canada’s employment scene, according to the Bank of Canada’s quarterly business outlook survey.

Released Monday, the survey describes the results of a poll of some 100 high-ranking Canadian executives, selected in accordance with the composition of Canada’s gross domestic product. Among other questions, the business leaders were asked of their hiring plans for the year ahead. More than half reported that their firms anticipate taking on more staff in the next 12 months.

ImageIn response to the question of whether they expect their organization’s level of employment to be higher, lower or the same as the year that just passed, 53 percent said it would be higher. Thirty-nine percent, meanwhile, said they expect it to be the same, and just eight percent confessed that they foresee shedding staff in the year to come.

While the hiring prediction is the same as last year, those firms with plans to reduce their workforce declined from 11 percent.

And while more businesses say they’re operating “close to capacity,” their reports of labour shortages have edged down.

In the analysis accompanying the spring assessment, the survey’s authors speculate that an improving American economy, along with the recent devaluation of the Canadian dollar have contributed to this outlook. Additionally, they say that organizations are enjoying steady sales growth (44 percent of respondents said sales improved in the last 12 months, versus 34 percent last spring), with firms declaring orders from both domestic and international customers as “generally improved” over last year.

Asked whether they expected their firm’s sales volume to increase at a greater, lesser or the same rate as over the past 12 months, 51 per cent of respondents replied “greater.” The other half was divided between those who said “the same,” and those who said “lesser.”

Also hopeful was respondents’ apparent lack of anxiety over hiring, with their mentions of concerns about staffing related only “to hiring for specific positions, skill sets or regions,” says the report.

Job Prospects Dim for Poised-to-Graduate Youngsters

Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. It’s one of those bitterly uttered comments, no doubt squeezed through the vinegary lips of a member of the older generation. Truth is, the job market being what it is right now, age and maturity might actually be the preferable condition.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the rate of unemployment for Canadians between 15 and 24 in 2013 ranged from 16 to 17.1 percent. That compared to an all-ages average of 13.5 to 14.5 percent.

ImageAdd to that the fact that some 25 percent of young workers in Canada are underemployed and an estimated one-third of post-secondary grads, ages 25 to 29, are languishing in low-skilled positions simply so they might nibble away at their student debts.

Consider, too, that Canadian students graduate under the burden of an average of $14,000 of debt (or $25,000 if you knock the lucky faction carrying no debt at all out of the calculation), the highest debt ever for fresh-to-the-workforce alumni.

And Ontario’s monthly youth employment rate, a measure of the number of young people who actually have jobs in this province, tells an even more desperate tale. Between 50 and 52 percent of this country’s youth contingent are not able to find work. That’s a truly extraordinary statistic that nudges Ontario into the dubious top spot for youth unemployment outside of Atlantic Canada.

Toronto’s youth unemployment rate, meanwhile, sits at 18.1 percent and its employment rate at 43.5 percent — the worst of any region in the province.

And so here you’ve got a population of citizens whose MO is pretty much identical of that of their parents: get an education, leave university and become financially independent members of, and contributing members to, society at large. But this cohort arguably faces more challenges in seeing that through than any other generation in recent memory.

Given this grim reality, the argument favouring green over grey loses much of its youthful blush.