International students in Canada will be able to work more than 20 hours a week under a new policy announced this morning by Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Sean Fraser.

The temporary policy will be in place from November 15, 2022 to December 31, 2023.

Normally, study permit holders are restricted to up to 20 hours of off-campus work per week while class is in session. This limit is removed during breaks such as the summer and winter holidays.

But, Canada’s ongoing labour shortage has left employers scrambling to fill roles, fulfill orders, and extend opening hours. In the government’s view, unleashing the full labour potential of around 600,000 international students in Canada can help these businesses, and in turn the Canadian economy as a whole.

Foreign nationals in Canada who have already submitted a study permit application as of October 7 will also be able to work more than 20 hours per week under the new policy.

The student solution

Canada has been smashing through records when it comes to welcoming international students to campuses across the country.

Already this year, around 452,000 study permit applications have been processed, breaking the single-year record with three months to spare. As of the end of last year, Canada hosted over 620,000 international students — roughly 1.6 percent of Canada’s population as a whole.

And because international students are of working age — and they have tuition fees and living expenses to offset — the new policy is a win-win for students and employers alike.

Unemployment down, but don’t be fooled

Today’s policy announcement coincided with the release of new data showing that Canada’s unemployment rate went down to 5.2 percent in September, from 5.4 percent the previous month.

The lower unemployment rate is largely due to fewer people looking for work, rather than any major job gains. That said, a modest gain of 21,000 new jobs was posted, thanks in large part to schools reopening.

The latest Labour Force Survey says gains in education, health care and social assistance were offset by modest losses in several other sectors, including manufacturing and information, culture and recreation.

What else is Canada doing to ease the labour shortage?

Canada’s labour shortage is deep. Baby boomers are retiring, businesses are growing out of the pandemic, and there simply are not enough workers ready, willing, and able to take up the roles that need to be filled.

Fortunately, policy makers across the political spectrum recognise that newcomers and foreign workers form a big part of the solution. Just last month, new data showed that Canada’s median age has edged down for the first time in five decades thanks to open immigration policies.

In addition to today’s announcement to unleash the full labour potential of international students, federal and provincial governments in Canada are taking other steps to get foreign nationals working in Canada. This is especially the case for professionals in accredited occupations.

Ontario has stated its intent to allow foreign-trained nurses to take up nursing roles more quickly. In August, six Ontario hospitals had to close emergency rooms due to staff shortages.

The federal government has put in place mechanisms to conduct targeted Express Entry draws starting next year. The Minister of Immigration today specifically mentioned healthcare as a prime example of a sector that may benefit from such draws. Indeed, just last month the government took steps to make it easier for self-employed physicians to immigrate through Express Entry.

The number of Express Entry invitations has already been rising steadily since all-program draws resumed this summer. As the government reaches deeper into the pool to invite candidates, thereby reducing the number of points required for someone to be invited, more foreign-based candidates may be invited to apply.

The rarely-mentioned (at least in government circles) International Experience Canada (IEC) program is also a boon for employers looking for workers. Well over 100,000 IEC invitations have been issued so far this year, and while not every invitee ends up in Canada, tens of thousands do, most of them through the Working Holiday category that does not require a job offer and gives participants a free run at the labour market for up to 24 months in many cases. These workers often help to fill hospitality and seasonal roles, but many also fill more professional roles and stay in Canada permanently.

In addition, the government is making good on its promise to reduce immigration processing times across the board, with a hiring ramp-up and digitization of some processes helping to get people approved and working in Canada.

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Source: Government of Canada