A shrinking unemployment rate and an increasing labor shortage have resulted in Canada relaxing its rules on off-campus work for international students.
Early October, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), Sean Fraser announced the launch of a pilot project which will allow international students to work off-campus more than 20 hours a week during the semester. The pilot project will run from November 15 this year to December 31, 2023.
Fraser estimates that around 500,000 students would benefit from the pilot project. Under the 20-hour off-campus cap, international students could work more hours only during scheduled breaks of the educational institute they were enrolled in. At such times, students were allowed to work full-time, overtime or hold two part-time jobs.
Michelle Carbert, Spokesperson and Communications Advisor for IRCC told Immigrant Muse that “to be eligible to work more than 20 hours per week during that period, the study permit holder must be authorized to work off-campus and either already be in Canada, or have applied for a study permit by October 7, 2022.” She explained that the “off-campus work authorization that international students are eligible for is an ‘open’ authorization. This means they are eligible to work for nearly any employer in Canada.”
A Statistics Canada report indicates there were a million vacancies in the second quarter of 2022, and states that “the unemployment-job-vacancy ratio in Canada is at a historical low, amid a record tight labor market.” This means that employers are facing difficulties in recruiting staff and taking longer to fill vacant positions.
One of the main factors contributing to the labor shortage in Canada is that a fair proportion of the working population is reaching retirement age. Also, other workers have resigned from their jobs due to burnout or family situations. Those who lost their jobs in industries impacted by COVID-19 pandemic have moved on to other industries, resulting in many vacancies in those industries in the post-pandemic era. COVID also slowed down the immigration process, reducing the number of newcomers willing to take up survival jobs.
While the government attempts to create a win-win situation through this pilot project, the requirements for off-campus employment have not changed. Though students will be allowed to work more hours, they will not be permitted to reduce their course loads to free up time to work those extra hours.
According to the Government of Canada website, to work off-campus a student must have a study permit stating they are allowed to work on or off campus; have begun studies at the educational institution; and if a student does not have a work permit, both the potential employer and the student must ensure the student is permitted to work. Students who work without meeting these requirements face the risk of being asked to leave Canada.
Unlike permanent residents or citizens who have access to government loans, international students must meet the cost of tuition fees and living expenses on their own. Many students rely on financial help from their families, and the ability to earn more and support themselves better is certainly welcome.
On average, depending on the educational institution and the program of study, annual tuition fees could be anything from $ 20,000 to $ 30,000 or even more. At least another
$ 15,000 is required for living expenses.
Statistics Canada reports that in the Second Quarter of 2022, most job openings were in Ontario. Other reports indicate that Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec too hold out more job opportunities. Also, most vacancies in the first quarter of 2022 occurred in food services and related sectors, with a high demand for counter attendants and kitchen helpers. Retail salespersons and truck drivers too were in high demand. There is also a demand for registered nurses, orderlies, nurse aides, patient service associates, cooks, construction trade helpers and laborers, food and beverage servers and material handlers.