Immigration Also Means Temporary Residents

While the annual number of immigrants to Canada gets a lot of focus and debate, that number is actually a measure of the number of Permanent Residents that come to Canada. It has remained at around 250,000 permanent residents per year for approximately the last 25 years. Aside from 1998 and 1999 – when it fell to 175,000 and 190,000 respectively – it has remained between 210,000 and 280,000 for the rest of the past 25 years. This is the figure that immigration skeptics use, for example, to support their argument that Canada takes in far too many immigrants.

The other type of non-citizen in Canada is, of course, a Temporary Resident. And these numbers have been growing substantially as Canada increasingly becomes a place to work temporarily in, study at the post-secondary level, or participate in an exchange program. What do the numbers tell us about this increasingly important class of visitors to Canada? And how many of them go on to become permanent residents?


Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Over the last 10 years, Canada has seen a near-tripling of work permit holders under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFW). 

Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada by Gender

What this graphic shows is that from 2007 onwards (with the exception of 2010) male TFWs increased at a faster rate and/or decreased at a slower rate than female TFWs. The breach between surging male TFWs and stagnant female TFWs has worsened over the last several years. In fact, by 2013, there were 65.75% more male temporary workers than female temporary workers in Canada, as shown above. In 2004, the numbers were almost identical. Could this be due to jobs opening up in male-dominated industries like energy or mining? And will current weakness in these “rocks & logs” sectors of the Canadian economy close this gap between women and men?

Consider TFW permit holders by Age Group

Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada by Age Group

One can see that the youngest and middle age groups are more volatile than the 45 – 59 years group. The 15 – 29 and 30 – 44 groups declined more sharply during the recession but recovered more quickly afterwards. Note that the 30 – 44 group has the sharpest recovery of any of the three indicating that workers with experience tend to be hired first in a recovery. The 45 – 59 age group is more likely to be comprised of more senior level positions that are not as subject to either being laid-off or hired during recessions and recoveries. Finally, note that the 30 – 44 group, while the most volatile of the 3, is clearly where the greatest number of TFW permits are allocated. 

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Temporary vs. Permanent Residents

Temporary vs. Permanent Residents in Canada

The general trend has been of increasing temporary resident permits versus permanent residencies. 2010 is an exception, as the number of permanent residents increased dramatically that year, while temporary work permits continued to decline. But temporary permits in 2013 are clearly much higher relative to granted permanent residencies, which in turn are a much lower percentage of the total of permanent and temporary permits. Clearly, part of the current government’s immigration strategy is to increase the number of temporary workers, and use Express Entry to screen applicants for permanent residence according to their work experience, education, and language skills. Whether this immigration strategy changes with changing economic conditions, as well as any possible changes in the governing party, remains to be seen.


International Students

As Canada seeks to capture an increasing share of the international post-secondary education market, the number of foreign students in Canada has increased to the point where they are more than the number of new permanent residents. Since 2011, international students have overtaken the number of new permanent residents in Canada as we can see below:

International Students vs Temporary Residents vs Permanent Residents in Canada

What stands out is how consistent the increase in international students has been over the last decade or so. While both permanent residents and temporary work permit holders have seen increases and declines at different points in the decade, international students have steadily climbed from year to year. Not only that, in the last few years, they have overtaken even permanent residents. This is the result of two factors:

  • Student enrollment does not seem to be affected by economic cycles the way TFWP permits clearly are, and even to a lesser extent, permanent residence applications are.
  • There is a clear policy on the part of government to increase the number of international students in Canada studying at post-secondary institutions. As a way to boost the reputation and tuition intake for Canadian universities and colleges. As well, as a way to give foreign students a valuable experience both academically and culturally, that will help them adapt to life in Canada, should they apply to work and live in the country.

In 1971, 68% of all Canadian university students were male. By the 2006 Census that proportion has practically inverted itself, with female university students accounting for 60% of the total student population. How do international students compare with regards to gender?

Foreign Students in Canada by Gender

As far as international students go, male students continue to account for a greater share. The gap seems to be reasonably constant as well, as both have increased in roughly the same proportion. To what extent this is a result of cultural differences in the source countries remains to be seen. When and whether these proportions will change and resemble more closely those of domestic university students is also unclear. In 2013, the top 6 source countries for international students were as follows:

Foreign Students in Canada by Source Country

As shown by the graphic, the top 6 source countries include several with conservative cultures that could help account for a predominance of male international students in Canada.

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Making the Leap to PR Status

It seems pretty clear that the Temporary Residents are an increasingly important part of the immigration landscape in Canada. From international students to temporary workers, an increasing portion of future permanent residents will come from their ranks. For now, a low percentage do make the leap from Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident, as shown by the following graphic:

Percentage of Temporary Foreign Workers who Become Permanent Residents in Canada

These percentages (at best 10%) will have to go up for TFWP permit holders and other Temporary Residents to feel they too have a fair shot at Permanent Resident Status in Canada. Why isn't a priority that people already living in Canada because permanent residents? Will government policy change to make the temporary foreign worker program more beneficial for its participants, employers and Canada as a whole? Time will tell.

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