Alberta international students demand permanent lift on work hour cap

The temporary lifting of the cap, initiated in November 2022 to address the nationwide labor shortage, is set to be reversed by the end of April.

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Student unions and associations in Alberta are rallying together as the reinstatement of work-hour limits for international students looms. They are collectively urging the federal government to permanently abolish these restrictions.

The temporary lifting of these caps, initially enacted in November 2022 to address a nationwide labor shortage, is reported to be reversed by the end of April, CBC News reported.

Rohan Joshua, an international student who recently completed his post-graduate certification at the University of Calgary, expressed concern for his peers who will soon face the 20-hour work limit. 

Having benefited from the temporary removal of the cap, Joshua emphasized the financial challenges many students may encounter, juggling rent, groceries, and tuition fees.

“I don’t know how they’re going to manage because they have rent, groceries, and tuition fees to pay off as well. It’s going to be impossible,” said Joshua.

Advocacy

The Alberta Students’ Executive Council, led by Chair Celia Sutton, is at the forefront of the advocacy effort. 

Sutton stressed the importance of supporting international students, particularly in the face of affordability issues, which have disproportionately affected this demographic.

International students constitute over 75 percent of the University of Calgary’s food bank users, according to previous reports by the news outlet.

“Allowing more work hours to accommodate individual needs, empower students to effectively manage expenses, alleviate family burdens, acquire pertinent experience in their industry and make meaningful contributions to our communities.”

Several student unions and associations across Alberta, including those from Mount Royal University, MacEwan University, Athabasca University, the University of Alberta, and the University of Lethbridge, have signed the collective call to maintain the status quo.

Concerns

The concerns raised by these organizations include the potential loss of full-time jobs, precarious situations for students, and increased reliance on campus resources, such as food banks. 

According to a statement from the office of Immigration Minister Marc Miller, the reinstatement of the cap aims to protect international students from exploitation and mistreatment in the workforce.

Amid the advocacy, Lori Williams, associate professor of Policy Studies at MRU, cited the detrimental impact of excessive work hours on students’ education: “It impoverishes their education. I’ve watched this get worse and worse over the years, and I’m very concerned about students trying to manage studies while they’re working too many hours simply to make ends meet.”

Williams suggested that rather than increasing work hours, governments should invest in affordable housing and support post-secondary institutions financially.

Charles St-Arnaud, chief economist at Alberta Central, acknowledged the need for students to earn income but recognized the government’s concern about balancing work and education. 

Recovery

The government’s temporary removal of the work hour cap in November 2023, which benefited over 500,000 students, aimed to address labor shortages and expedite economic recovery.

Despite the temporary reprieve, study permit holders must navigate the delicate balance between work and study commitments. Those adjusting course loads or discontinuing part-time study were excluded from off-campus work eligibility.

Former Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, who advocated for the lift in 2022, emphasized the necessity to explore all options to meet workforce demands for Canada’s economic growth.

“By allowing international students to work more while they study, we can help ease pressing needs in many sectors across the country,” he said.

Canada has surpassed one million international students, reaching a total of 1,028,850 as of December last year, according to data from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. 

The provinces with the highest international student populations are Ontario (526,015), British Columbia (202,565), and Quebec (117,925).

The surge was attributed to the permissive Designated Learning Institution model in specific provinces.

Miller has called on provincial governments to collaborate with DLIs and implement measures to manage the escalating numbers. 

In 2022, Canada hosted 807,260 international students, and by September 2023, over 1,015,744 individuals held valid Canadian study permits, surpassing earlier projections.

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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