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The Dynamics of Work Permits and Employment in Canada

Austin Campbell



Dynamics of Work Permits

Canada’s workforce owes nearly all of its growth to immigration—a pivotal force not only in meeting the country’s economic demands but also in bolstering its welfare systems. Nevertheless, the connection is reciprocal as economic immigrants must secure employment to support their needs and attain the essential Permanent Residency (PR) status for settlement.

Given the significance of work permits and employment for economic immigrants, delving into historical data provides insights into the realities of acquiring work permits and transitioning from temporary foreign worker (TFW) status to permanent residency in Canada. Statistics Canada conducted two recent studies between 2010 and 2020, offering crucial information about work permit trends and employment dynamics.

Understanding the Most Prolific Work Permit Programs

Canada operates two main work permit pathways—the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP), each catering to specific contexts and needs. The TFWP is designed to address labor shortages that cannot be filled domestically, requiring a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for issuing work permits. Conversely, the IMP serves broader social, cultural, and economic objectives, often offering open work permits without the need for an LMIA.

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Analyzing the data from 2010 to 2021, the IMP has witnessed a significant surge, accounting for over half of the total work permits issued. Notably, the growth of the IMP can be attributed to specific streams like post-graduation employment and work permits for study purposes, reflecting the prominence of educational avenues in securing work permits and eventual PR status.

Assessing Work Permit Holders’ Employment Success

For work permit holders aspiring to obtain PR, securing employment remains a crucial milestone. Statistics Canada’s study revealed that a substantial percentage of work permit holders reported a positive income through labor market participation, with a noticeable increase from 2011 to 2020. However, certain factors, such as permit holders not actively seeking employment or being abroad despite possessing valid permits, might affect these statistics.


Notably, data analysis suggests that work permit holders in specific programs, such as the TFWP’s agriculture streams and the IMP’s post-graduation employment streams, exhibited higher rates of labor market participation. Similarly, individuals aged 25-34 displayed the highest participation rates, along with those holding work permits valid for at least 10-12 months.

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Considering the Path Ahead

While the data points to the growing relevance of the IMP, particularly for individuals leveraging educational opportunities, choosing the right path to a work permit and subsequent PR hinges on individual circumstances. Factors like international tuition fees and personal attributes must be considered when evaluating the most viable route for prospective immigrants. Despite offering valuable insights, the studies faced certain limitations, including the exclusion of self-employed individuals in the analysis and the potential underestimation of the actual number of work permit holders in Canada. These considerations emphasize the need for a comprehensive approach when charting one’s journey towards securing a work permit and achieving permanent residency in Canada.

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