Number of temporary foreign workers in construction is on the rise | BuildForce Canada

Number of temporary foreign workers in construction is on the rise

OTTAWA – A new study says the number of temporary foreign workers being used to meet short-term peak demand in the construction industry is on the rise, especially in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. If labour market opinion approvals over the past few years continue at the current rate, Alberta could potentially see a 600% increase in temporary foreign workers.

Although the stated number of construction temporary foreign workers is minimal, the trend as indicated by a six-fold increase is significant. Last year the Construction Sector Council’s Labour Market Information Program identified the need to train close to 250,000 workers by 2015 in order to replace a retiring workforce and to meet new demand for construction projects. Temporary foreign workers have been needed to fill vacant positions in specific regions and for specific trades requiring skilled and qualified workers immediately.

In response to the industry’s need to know more about this crucial labour source, the Construction Sector Council has just published: “Temporary Foreign Workers in the Canadian Construction Industry: An Analysis of Programs and Mechanisms.”

“Labour and business leaders wanted to get a handle on how many temporary foreign workers there are in the industry, where they are coming from and where they are going to work,” says CSC Executive Director George Gritziotis, noting that “the study also provided an opportunity to examine the entire process that involves a number of stakeholders.”

What came through clearly in this study is that temporary foreign workers are fulfilling a critical short term need at the worksite, and that their employment is on the rise across Canada.

Other highlights:

Most foreign workers come from the United States, with the United Kingdom and the Philippines tied for second place. Most are employed in the Institutional, Commercial and Industrial sector, with the New Home Building and Renovation sector close behind.

Study participants were nearly universal in their praise for the quality of temporary foreign workers who have made it through the system and the ways in which they are contributing to the worksite. Respondents also identified ways the processes and mechanisms could be improved.

In addition to an extensive document and literature review, 69 in-depth interviews were conducted with construction industry employers, associations, training bodies, unions, recruitment and immigrant servicing agencies.

The Construction Sector Council is a not-for-profit national labour/management organization mandated to address the human resource issues facing the construction industry in Canada. Funding for this study was provided by the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program. It can be viewed at


Rosemary Sparks
Senior Director of Planning and Development
Construction Sector Council