Canada addresses labour shortage: International students allowed to work unrestricted hours – Times of India
Currently, international students can work off-campus only for 20 hours per week while classes are in session. This restriction often led to their working in entry level, low-paying jobs or working on the sly, which was an illegal move and led to deportation.
The relaxation announced on Friday, by Sean Fraser, Canada’s immigration minister is temporary and is meant to help resolve the labour-shortage crisis faced by Canadian employers. It will also ease the financial burden of international students, a significant number of whom are from India.
Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the immigration agency of the Canadian government states, sais “From November 15, 2022, until December 31, 2023, international students who are in Canada and who have off-campus work authorization on their study permit will not be restricted by the 20-hour-per-week rule. Foreign nationals who have already submitted a study permit application, as of today (October 7), will also be able to benefit from this temporary change, provided their study permit application is approved.”
Minister Fraser’s statement read: “With the economy growing at a faster rate than employers can hire new workers, Canada needs to look at every option so that we have the skills and workforce needed to fuel our growth. Immigration will be crucial to addressing our labour shortage. By allowing international students to work more while they study, we can help ease pressing needs in many sectors across the country, while providing more opportunities for international students to gain valuable Canadian work experience and continue contributing to our short-term recovery and long-term prosperity.”
It should be noted that the leeway is not available to ‘future’ students, who furnish their study permit applications post October 7. This, according to some academicians, could create an imbalance.
Safeguards have been built to ensure that this temporary leeway isn’t misused by job seekers. “Study permit holders are still expected to balance their study and work commitments, as those who stop studying or reduce course loads to only study part-time are not eligible to work off-campus,” added the immigration agency.
Canada currently has more than five lakh international students, with a huge contingent hailing from India. According to ApplyBoard, an online platform for international student recruitment in Canada, has seen a massive influx in Indian students in 2021 calendar year. From January to September 2021, nearly 1,15,000 Indian students were approved to study in Canada. This surpassed the previous record of 1,11,110 in 2019. “Based on historical trends, we estimate that more than 1,40,000 Indian students were approved during 2021. This total is 25% higher than 2019,” said ApplyBoard.
Josh Schachnow, an immigration lawyer and founder of Visto.ai, a tech-talent search platform, has expressed mixed feelings: “While the announcement will alleviate the financial burden of students, the crux is finding the right kind of job, the experience of which counts towards permanent residence.”
Madhav Dave, whose social media bio mentions him as a supply chain management student, based in Ontario, has posted: “It is indeed a great opportunity but the ball is in the employer’s court. I wonder how flexible they would be. Assuming that a student has to attend college at least one or two days a week, it leaves three business days and the weekend. Can an employer hire a student for three days a week in a decent white-collar job?”
“A lot of international students possess prior experience which can be used to their advantage, but all they are able to do during their studies is general labour or work in restaurants. Give us the minimum wage, but at least give us an opportunity so that we can start gaining experience and be ready for the market when we graduate, this will also help the employers who look for ‘experienced freshers’,” he added.
“Today’s (Friday) announcement isn’t about labour shortage, it’s about labour mobility and rights, and it’s a direct result of years of tireless organisation by current and former international students. Removing the limit on hours of work while studying gives migrant student workers the power to leave bad jobs, speak up against exploitation and mistreatment, and freedom and flexibility to make decisions about their work,” said Sarom Rho, an organiser for ‘Migrant Students United’ at the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.
In 2019, India’s Jobandeep Singh Sandhu, who was studying mechanical engineering, had his immigration status revoked and was eventually deported from Canada for driving trucks beyond the stipulated 20 hours a week. Since then, the Alliance has been actively calling for a change.
An average working shift is eight hours. Part-time work is generally considered three days a week (this aggregates to a minimum of 24 hours). The 20-hour work limit effectively forced migrant students to engage in irregular work, outside of labour law protection, points out the Alliance.
Harshill Dhingra, a former international student at Humber College, said “Migrant students like me pushed for and won this change. I was a victim of this restriction on work. Last year, I injured my left finger in a very bad accident while working for cash at a restaurant and decided to stay quiet because I was afraid that I would be deported.” He added, “No one should have to fight for things like permission about where, how and how much we want to work; 1.7 million migrants need permanent residency, so we have the same rights as anyone else.”
This was echoed by Ontario based, Jeevan Singh D, who works in the educational sector: “It reduces the risk of students needing to work cash-in-hand jobs where they get paid $5 an hour for 80 hours of work, and no employment rights or worker insurance coverage. Reducing the risk of worker exploitation is definitely positive.”