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Canada to allow international students to work more hours due to labour shortage

OTTAWA — Canada will temporarily allow international students to work more than 20 hours a week, in a bid to address ongoing labour shortages.
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Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser makes an announcement about international students and Canada’s labour shortage at Happy Goat Coffee in Ottawa on Friday, October 7, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

OTTAWA — Canada will temporarily allow international students to work more than 20 hours a week, in a bid to address ongoing labour shortages. 

Speaking at a coffee shop in Ottawa Friday morning, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the changes will start on Nov. 15 and be in effect until the end of 2023.

"This change is going to help sustain Canada's post-pandemic growth," Fraser said. "It's also going to give many post-secondary students a greater opportunity to support themselves." 

The labour market remains exceptionally tight, with nearly one million job vacancies reported in the second quarter of 2022. 

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations welcomed the announcement, saying it was a step toward improving international students' educational experience.

“Allowing international students to work more off-campus hours will help students afford their education and increase educational experiences," said Christian Fotang, the alliance's chair. 

"This is not only a win for international students, but also for Canada.”

Mikal Skuterud, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo, said it's understandable that students would be supportive of the change, but warned it comes with trade-offs. 

Skuterud said international students are often filling low-skilled jobs and the new policy will incentivize more employment in low-paying parts of the economy. 

"The whole framing of the issue around labour shortage is problematic. Why are labour shortages a problem?" Skuterud said. 

Shortages incentivize competition among employers, he added, which drives up wages and improves working conditions. 

If Canada wants to help international students cope with expenses, then it should take a look at the exorbitant tuition fees they pay, Skuterud said. 

Fraser also announced a pilot program to help automate the application process for students to extend their study permits. 

That will allow for some applications to be automatically approved, but the new process will not automatically reject claims.

Fraser said the pilot is aimed at reducing immigration backlogs and freeing up officers to work on more complex applications. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2022. 

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

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