GRSJ224/Migrant Workers In Canada

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Temporary Foreign Workers

Migrant Workers in Canada are also known as Temporary Foreign Workers. As a temporary foreign worker, a work permit is required to work legally in Canada, and they do not have the right to stay in Canada permanently. Often these workers are employed and designated to work in low wage and low skilled jobs such as farm work, cleaners or nannies.[1] There are more than 500,000 migrant workers in Canada and 110,000 of the workers have low-wage jobs.[1] Most of the low wage jobs are dangerous, difficult and filthy. Furthermore, there has been an increased growth and change in labour migration at the start of the twenty-first century in Canada.[2]As a result, temporary labour migration through programs such as the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP),Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and Live-in Caregiver Program has replaced permanent immigration as the main means for which people enter Canada.[2]


The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) was established in 1973 by the Liberal federal government. The experiences of women have been vastly changing and different throughout the years. In the early years, women were recruited to work as nannies and caregivers. Women in the TFWP were often brought to Canada to fill low-paying jobs such as service, retail and caregiving sectors. However, women coming from developing countries such as from the Global South are racialized and often experience various forms of abuse.

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) worker program was stablished in 1966.[3]This allowed workers of lower formal training to find an occupation and work. This program brought around 25,000 people per year to Canada.[3] The main source of workers from this program was from Jamaica and in 1970, Mexico was added.

The Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) was established in 1992. Through this program, workers are able to come to Canada without having to go through the immigration process.[4] However, one of the requirements is that they have to work for at least 24 out of the 36 months as a care giver in a home.[4]One of the key issues as this program offers is that they do not differentiate the different types of caregiving such as elders, children or disabled people so arrangements and experiences with clients are impacted.[5]

Women in the Work Force

Limitations on Job Opportunities

Even though Canada pushes to implement policies to encourage gender equality, the labor force with food, hospitality and retail are still considered to be women’s work. While men workers have more access to jobs such as management or trades. Although both Canada and the home countries of the workers promote the value of women’s work, it is still evident that men’s work and wages are valued more globally.[6]

Gendered Differences in Remittances

Remittances are not distributed evening among men and women. The division of labor correlates with how they are distributed. Remittances are going to finance services like healthcare, which should already be paid for by the government.

Burden of Family Separation

Women in the TFWP also experience mental and emotional struggles from family separation.[6] The program usually requires them to leave for years at a time and visit home for only short amount of time. These conditions place burdens and stress on the family, especially the children being left without their parents. Not only does this create family separation issues, it also creates feelings of abandonment, and resentment.[6] As well, it causes confusion for young children.

Precarious Work Conditions

Women workers face precarious work situations even though they have the same rights and protection as Canadian workers.[6] However, very few of them are aware of this situation due to their ability to understand what their rights are and language barriers.


The temporary foreign workers program is used to lower wage levels and labour standards to fill labour shortage. In the TFW program, it is not required for the workers to be proficient in either English or French since many of the jobs are labor jobs that do not require verbal interaction with the public.[7] However, the low-skilled workers who are not proficient in either Canada’s official language are more vulnerable to abuse or exploitation. They often experience inaccurate information, illegal recruitment fees, and discrimination. The marginalized migrant workers also suffer from inadequate housing and difficulty accessing basic health care and everyday activities such as banking and grocery shopping due to the language barrier.[7] As it is required for the SAWP and Live-in Caregiver programs to provide housing; the housing provided by the employers may be overcrowded, overpriced and lack cleanliness.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "'Canada the Good' myth exposed: Migrant workers resist debt-bondage". May 2, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Choudry, Aziz (2016). Unfree Labour? : Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada. PM Press. ISBN 9781629631493.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Migrant workers: Who they are, where they're coming from". CBC News.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bourgeault; Rishma; Jelena, Ivy Lynn; Parpia; Atanackovic. "Canada's Live-In Caregiver Program: Is it an Answer to the Growing Demand for Elderly Care?". Journal of Population Ageing.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Carlos, Jessica Krystle (2016). "Canada's (Live-in) Caregiver Program: Perceived Impacts on Health and Access to Health Care among Immigrant Filipina Live-in Caregivers in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada". ProQuest Dissertations Publishings.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 White, Judy. "Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program & Women Migrant Workers in Canada's North". FemNorthNet.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Gross, Dominique. "Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: Are They Really Filling Labour Shortages?". C.D. Howe.