Sask. residents say more could be done following international student work hour cap lift

Click to play video: 'Federal government looking to alleviate labour shortage by allowing international students unlimited work hours'
Federal government looking to alleviate labour shortage by allowing international students unlimited work hours
WATCH: In an attempt to combat Canada's labour shortage... the federal government is letting international students work more hours in a week... but while the change will help students make ends meet, it might not be enough to boost local businesses. Montana Getty explains. – Oct 13, 2022

The Government of Canada announced that it would be lifting a work hour restriction for some  international students working off-campus on Nov. 15. However, the lift is temporary, ending in December 2023, and some Saskatoon residents are saying more should be done.

Mostofa Kamal, president of the Graduate Students’ Association at the University of Saskatchewan, said he knows all too well the struggles international students go through.

“I personally came to Canada as an international student, now I’m becoming a Canadian citizen,” Kamal said.

He noted that he was the first in his family to go to college.

Kamal said during his studies he stopped receiving funding and had to find ways to stay afloat.

Story continues below advertisement

“I came from Bangladesh and my father’s income was less than $300 per month.”

Click to play video: 'Canada temporarily extends international student work permits to address labour shortage'
Canada temporarily extends international student work permits to address labour shortage

He said during his time in Waterloo, Ont., a professor was looking for students to do some yard work for him.

“I received an email from the department saying that a professor is looking for some students who can clean his yard, and he will pay some money.”

He said he got around $200 to $300 for the work, adding that working under the table is fairly common for international students.

Kamal noted that many international students desperate for work can be exploited by employers, and in some cases are paid less than minimum wage.

Story continues below advertisement

He noted that the temporary cap lift will give students the much-needed opportunity to make some extra money, but will also help with their mental health.

“I’m surprised that the government made this decision only temporary until December 2023.”

“I hope that the federal government will extend this decision to a more reasonable timeframe,” Kamal added.

He suggested lifting the work hour cap for at least five to six years to really show the benefits of it, adding that it will likely bring in more international students to Canada.

Click to play video: 'Canada’s retail industry struggles to find workers as job vacancy rates hit another record high'
Canada’s retail industry struggles to find workers as job vacancy rates hit another record high

Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce CEO Jason Aebig said the temporary lift is great for students, but said more could be done to combat the current labour shortage.

“It’s always great to give students an opportunity to earn while they learn. The costs to go to school are very high, whether you’re a Canadian student or an international student. So any opportunity to offset your cost of living expenses, books, tuition is great,” Aebig said.

Story continues below advertisement

“This is a good idea. And we would support it. Is it a game-changer in terms of the labour shortage challenges we face? No, it is not.”

He noted that the backlog in Ottawa for permanent residency applications is affecting opportunities for skilled workers to stay in this country.

“We have a situation where highly skilled newcomers who would have qualified for permanent residency in previous years are being forced to leave because their work permits are expiring and there’s no one there to renew them.”

Aebig also noted that some international students may not have time to work more than 20 hours in a week.

“If you’re an international student, you’re already likely paying a differential tuition. You’re paying two to three times more than a Canadian student to attend a Canadian institution. So your costs for your education are already higher on your first day of school.”

“These international students need to finish fast. There is no incentive for them to draw out their degree or their diploma program because they’re already paying a very high price for that education. So as great as it is to lift the cap, I think we also have to be realistic about how many students would be in a position to work possibly more than 20 hours a week already, given the fact that they have labs, classes, seminars, reports, essays, things to do to graduate on time.”

Story continues below advertisement

Global News reached out to the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Canada for comment, and received the following statement from the province.

“Saskatchewan employers are experiencing critical labour shortages, with over 13,000 job vacancies posted on SaskJobs last month. The Government of Saskatchewan supports the decision to lift the cap on the number of hours that international students can work off-campus.”

“However, the federal government could do more to address labour shortages by reducing immigration processing times and providing the province with greater autonomy over immigration,” read the statement.

Sponsored content