Temporary Foreign Worker program: fine for older Canadians, bigger problem for young & unemployed

Temporary Foreign Worker program: fine for older Canadians, bigger problem for young & unemployed

May 30, 2014 – A new survey from Angus Reid Global shows slightly more Canadians oppose than support Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program (TFWP), but opinion on the subject is essentially split.

The online survey of Canadian adults reveals 38 per cent are opposed to the program, while 30 per cent are in favour and the rest (32%) say they don’t have an opinion one way or the other.

05.30.14-Temporary-Foreign-Worker-Program-CanadaAttitudes harden among specific demographics: older Canadians are more inclined to see benefit in the program, while younger Canadians and those who are unemployed and looking for work are soured on the idea of having foreign workers come in temporarily to fill jobs.

The Regional Picture:

Regionally, support for the program is highest in Quebec (44%) and Alberta (41%). It is lowest in Ontario (22%) and BC (20%); the latter provinces being where media reports of abuse within in the program first surfaced.

Overall, more working Canadians (30%) support the program more than those unemployed and looking for work (20%).

Who does the program help? Who is hurting?

Canadians say the greatest beneficiaries of the program are the temporary workers themselves (70%) followed by large companies (66%) and small business owners (58%).

Respondents say the biggest losers as a result of the TFWP are Canadians looking for work (68%), those doing low-paying jobs, (66%) and young Canadians (65%).

Polarizing issues: 

Unsurprisingly then, it is younger and unemployed Canadians who very different takes on the program than those who are older and/or employed.

Just over half of all respondents (54%) agree the TFWP is “needed to fill real labour shortages in different regions and sectors in Canada”. Agreement drops to just one-third (32%) among Canadians looking for work. While two-thirds (63%) of those aged 55 and older agree with this statement – fewer than half (46%) in the 18-34 category are in agreement.

There is similar polarization on attitudes towards the overall efficacy of the program, the issue of Canadians taking low-paying work, and about the work ethic of Canadians. While 39 per cent of all respondents agree that the TFWP “is working well for Canada” in spite of recent issues, sentiment is lower (27%) among those unemployed and looking for work.

The majority of respondents (61%) agree that “too many Canadians” are unwilling to take lower paying work, necessitating the need for the TFWP, an opinion that climbs to nearly three-quarters (72%) among respondents older than 55. This attitude drops to half (49%) among 18-34-year-old respondents, and to less than half (45%) among those unemployed and looking for work.

Older Canadians and those who are employed also take a harder line on unemployed Canadians and minimum wage. Seven-in-ten (69%) of survey respondents agree that “it’s not right for unemployed Canadians to refuse to work for minimum wage”. This agreement increases among older respondents (78%). Among younger Canadians, this sentiment softens (61%); even more among those who are unemployed (54%).

Regardless of age or employment status, most Canadians (81%) agree that the TFWP makes it too east for employers abuse the employees they’ve brought to Canada for work.

Attitudes on program fixes:

There does appear to be support for certain hypothetical changes to the TFWP, and employment status does not significantly alter opinion on these options.

Seventy per cent of respondents think it’s a “good idea” to limit the hiring of temporary foreign workers in regions where the unemployment rate is above a certain level. Sixty per cent say it’s a “good idea” to stop using the TFWP to fill less skilled positions (rising to 71% among unemployed respondents). And more than half (57%) of all respondents say businesses should be required to pay temporary foreign workers more, the idea being that higher wages will actually attract Canadian workers first.

Click here for detailed results, tables, charts and methodology

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