Twenty hour work week limitation lifted for international students to help address labour shortage

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On October 7, 2022, Sean Fraser, the Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced the temporary lifting of the 20-hour-per-week cap on the number of hours eligible post-secondary students are allowed to work off-campus while class is in session.

UNB/Website

Due to economic growth and recovery, labour shortages in Canada pose a great challenge. With significant development in the country, post-pandemic, international students will significantly help relieve the labour shortage. 

From November 15 2022 to December 31 2023, international students will be allowed to work for more than 20 hours a week, provided they have a valid work authorization on their study permit. Those who have already submitted an application for a study permit will also have the benefit of this temporary change. 

Why did the law change?

Following the devastating results of the pandemic on the world economy and the halt in national development, Canada has emerged more vital than ever. COVID-19 has brought drastic changes in the development structure of the country, and while the views are conflicting, the government is witnessing a rise in business development.

With the supply chain becoming the boon of the business world, the labour shortage has escalated. The federal government temporarily lifted the 20-hour workweek cap on international students to decrease the workload on a smaller group of employees. 

This change is being applauded by many, including the international students at UNB. International students talk about being free but being unable to spend their time making more money. 

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser (Nicholas Keung/The Star)

Anurag Bhosale, a second-year international student from India, says, “I’m glad I can save more now and not have to scramble for money. That’s the biggest benefit.” 

While the federal government changed the laws to relieve the labour shortage, international students are glad that they will be benefitted regardless of the government’s intentions. 

How does this help international students?

A more lenient workweek allowance is a blessing for international students all over the country. Many international students struggle with managing finances with a 20-hour/week cap. Due to the high tuition fee for them and the inflation on rent, food and transit expenses, international students strain themselves and work endlessly to make ends meet.

Many students resort to working for lesser wages on cash jobs to make a few extra bucks. With the student minimum wage at $13.75 per hour, international students were surviving on less than $16,000 annually. 

UNB/Website

One of the biggest challenges faced by international students in Canada is seeking medical attention. Due to the high healthcare service prices (without insurance coverage), many students tend to “ignore” health concerns to avoid spending hundreds on consultations and medications. With the change in policies, albeit temporary, international students find themselves more confident with their living situations and expense management. 

Negative Repercussions?

While most are supportive of this change and find it helpful for the country as well as international students, few are critical of the effects it could have on the academic health of the students. Professors and immigration consultants talk about the difficulty that international students face to cope with the Canadian curriculum and academic structure.

Many students face cultural shocks and a language barrier in their initial few years in the country. An increase in the hours allowed by the government for international students to work might divert them from their studies and cause problems when applying for a postgraduate work permit.

Numerous students and their families are unfortunately not educated on the immigration policies of the country. This poses vast difficulties for them in their future endeavours in the country. 

(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

The second concern shown by the people is the exploitation of international students and how it may increase by this policy. Although the representatives quickly refuted this by debating that the students have a choice in the matter and that no one is being forced to work more hours. 

Efforts of CASA

Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) is a national voice for Canada’s post-secondary students. Established in 1995, CASA is a non-partisan, not-for-profit student organisation composed of student associations across Canada. They represent undergraduate, graduate and polytechnic associations.

UNB-SRC is positively involved with CASA and supports the rights of students. The efforts of CASA to implement this policy have been of great help and many are very grateful for their contribution. 

CASA/Website

Ridhima Dixit, VP External for the SRC spoke to The Baron about the change in policy saying,

“It’s great news for international students. This form of flexibility is much needed, especially at this point, with groceries, tuition and textbook prices rising at par with the inflation rate. This is something CASA has been advocating for a while. CASA’s chair spoke before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration earlier this year about easing barriers international students face when trying to work in Canada.”

This change has not only eased the minds of students who were struggling to make ends meet but also relieved the stress of their parents, miles away who were fraught with their children’s well-being.