Trudeau Liberals reinstate work limits for international students as youth unemployment skyrockets

‘The [unlimited-hours] policy expires May 1 and it won’t be renewed,’ said Immigration Minister Marc Miller. ‘The idea behind the international student program is to study, not to work.’ Canada has 982,880 foreign students, according to recent immigration data.

Trudeau Liberals reinstate work limits for international students as youth unemployment skyrockets
The Canadian Press / Ethan Cairns
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The federal regulation that permitted foreign students to work unlimited hours has not been renewed by Ottawa in a not-so-surprising turn of events.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet said the country’s nearly one million foreign students can only work 20 hours a week after receiving swift pushback from Canadians.

“The policy expires today and it won’t be renewed,” said Immigration Minister Marc Miller. “The idea behind the international student program is to study, not to work.”

That counters what he previously told reporters: “My focus primarily is to make sure … the student [can] actually do what they’re supposed to be doing, which is study without bankrupting themselves.”

Last November, Statistics Canada said one in five (19%) study permit holders had no record of studying at a Canadian college or university.

The number of foreign students in Canada has spiralled out of control in recent years, from 637,855 in 2019 to 807,260 in 2022.

There are 982,880 foreigners on study permits, according to the most recent immigration data. 

Immigration Canada underwent “a review of the International Student Program to […] address student vulnerability, unethical recruitment and non-genuine actors in the program,” according to spokesperson Isabelle Dubois.

Before November 15, 2022, foreign students had been limited to a 20-hour work week under the Immigration And Refugee Protection Act. Then-immigration minister Sean Fraser permitted full-time work, owing to the growing costs of being a student in Canada, following the pandemic.

“Our data shows us that 80% of international students work more than 20 hours a week,” Miller earlier told reporters. “We are currently examining options for this policy in the future.”

On Tuesday, the minister confirmed the limit would increase to 24 hours in September, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. “Three shifts of eight hours seems reasonable,” he said.

The two-year cap on international students, announced earlier this year, will decrease foreign enrollment by at least 35% this fall, according to Miller. That rises to 50% in Ontario, where nearly half of foreign students live.

As of writing, the Department of Immigration has not commented on data suggesting it cost Canadians jobs.

On December 7, Minister Miller told reporters that foreigners were not “taking jobs away from other people” without evidence to substantiate his claim. Department records showed that information “does not exist.”

Miller extended the unlimited-hours policy until April 30, estimating that 80% of foreign students worked more than 20 hours weekly. “It was popular,” he said at the time.

“Have you taken a look at what impact that extension could have on permanent residents in Canada who are competing for those same jobs?” asked a reporter. He replied: “Well, look, there’s labour shortages across the country.”

According to the July 2023 Labour Force survey, the unemployment rate for Canadians under 24 grew a full point from 9.2% to 10.2% year over year. They cite the work cap suspension for the hike.

A similar survey in March pegged youth unemployment at 12.6%, continuing a trend which has seen virtually no net employment growth among youth since December 2022.

The Departments of Immigration and Labour could not speak to the impacts of repealing their work cap on youth unemployment, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

In a previous 2022 report, StatsCan said about half of foreign students were in the Canadian workforce when the cap had been in place.

“Between 2000 and 2019 the number of international students with T4 earnings increased from 22,000 to 354,000, a result of both a higher number of international students and their rising labour force participation rate from 18 percent to 50 percent,” said the report Immigration As A Source Of Labour Supply.

“The increases were particularly large at the non-university postsecondary level where the labour force participation rate rose from seven percent to 58 percent and the number of participants rose from 3,000 to 173,000,” wrote analysts.

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