Harvesting a solution: Temporary foreign workers key to mitigating agricultural labour shortages

Agri-businesses in Canada face persistent labour shortages. In 2022, labour shortages in agriculture amounted to $2.8 billion in lost contracts or sales, thereby limiting sales and production growth. The problem is not going away with estimates from the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council suggesting there will be 100,000 vacant jobs  in the agriculture sector by 2030.1 

Foreign workers have been instrumental in bridging labour gaps, with 3 in 10 agri-businesses having hired foreign workers. Agri-businesses highly value the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) who enable them to meet demand for their products and services (92%) and stay in business (89%).2

To better align the program with the practical needs of agri-businesses, 59% of agri-businesses stated they should have the option to share or transfer workers between farms and employers (e.g., multi-employer work permit). When reviewing the program, policymakers must ensure its structure reflects market realities and does not incentivize employee poaching. This report provides various recommendations for policy makers. 

  1. CAHRC, Sowing Seeds of Change, Agriculture Labour Market Forecast 2023-2030, February 2024. Retrieved from: https://cahrc-ccrha.ca/resources/document/agriculture-labour-market-forecast-2023-2030
  2. ESDC, Employer survey 2020 (for the period 2015 to 2020) in Employment and Social Development Canada, “Evaluation of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program,” June 2021, Evaluation Directorate – Strategic and Service Policy Branch. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/reports/evaluations/temporary-foreign-worker.html