Who is ‘essential’? Immigrants and foreign workers overrepresented in designated jobs during COVID-19, a new report finds

October 29, 2021

By Peterborough Examiner |

The pandemic has shed light on how immigrants and foreign workers are the backbone of the essential workforce that keeps the flow of goods and services uninterrupted during the crisis.

Now, for the first time, a new study has looked at the data to back it up.

Based on custom government data, the Conference Board of Canada examined the representation of immigrants and temporary foreign workers in sectors and occupations identified by Ottawa as “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although immigrants only account for 23.8 per cent of the Canadian workforce, they are “overrepresented” in major essential jobs: transit and passenger transportation (39.7 per cent); food manufacturing (34.85 per cent); administrative and support services (29.84 per cent); truck transportation (29.71 per cent); nursing and residential care facilities (29.21 per cent); personal and laundry services (28.1 per cent); and food services and restaurants (27.43 per cent).

Temporary foreign workers are also an increasing source of labour in the farm and food manufacturing subsectors.

Work permit holders — who make up around 1.4 per cent of the overall labour force — are overrepresented in food services (3.4 per cent); accommodation services (2.7 per cent); professional and technical services and food manufacturing, both at 2 per cent.

“Immigrants and temporary residents are critical in the essential sectors and occupations. That’s very clear,” said study author Yilmaz Dinc, senior research associate at the Conference Board specializing in immigration.

“As the pandemic has shown, we don’t only need people with bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s degrees. We also need people with manual skills. We need truck drivers, nurse aides and workers in food manufacturing. It’s important to create an immigration pathway for people with those skills to arrive in Canada as permanent residents.”

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