Canada tightens PGWP rules to align with labour market needs

Jun 21, 2024 | Campus News, Canadian News, News

Canada is set to implement significant changes to its Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) program, aligning the permits more closely with the country’s labour market needs.

This move is aimed at addressing skill shortages in critical sectors such as technology, healthcare, and engineering.

The PGWP is an open work permit, available to international students who have completed an eligible program of study at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI).

The new regulations mean international students seeking a PGWP will now need qualifications matching high-demand fields in Canada.

This shift is intended to ensure that the influx of new workers meets the economic priorities and supports growth by filling job gaps.

Dipankar Karmokar, a student pursuing a postgraduate degree in Financial Planning at Sheridan College, said he thinks this is a positive change.

“Most people come here, do labour work, and get permanent residency (PR). This affects the economy, job market, and adds to inflation, as well. Aligning post-graduate work permits with labour needs will help,” Karmokar said.

He said he is confident that the changes will not impact his plans, as he believes his field is in demand.

However, Karmokar said he was concerned about the lack of sufficient information from the government regarding these new regulations.

“I honestly had no idea about these changes and found out from you,” he said.

Aaliya Morris-Fernandes, a former international student who pursued Culinary Arts at George Brown in Toronto, expressed her worries about the new rules.

“I find it stressful. Spending thousands to come here for instability is worrisome. We are taxed heavily, and locals see us as freeloaders. If we don’t get PR, it feels like a wasted effort,” Morris-Fernandes said.

She said many international students turn to the hospitality sector for jobs due to the ease of entry, regardless of their qualifications, which makes it harder for those who have studied in these specific fields to find relevant work.

She said there was a lack of information available about the immigration process.

“They never provide enough information. Plans change suddenly with little to no heads-up,” she said.

The uncertainty, Morris-Fernandes said, has made her reconsider plans for further education in Canada.

“I would move to a different country before spending more on one where my future is uncertain,” she said. “Go to countries that will treat you better. We deserve an opportunity to build our lives, not be treated like criminals.”

Canada's new PGWP regulations aim to better match international graduates with high-demand sectors like technology, healthcare, and engineering.
Picture Credit: Niharika Nayak

Canada's new PGWP regulations aim to better match international graduates with high-demand sectors like technology, healthcare, and engineering. Photo credit: Niharika Nayak

Umme Hani Huzefa Bagdadi, who holds a Master’s in Art History from York University, said she understands why these changes are necessary but does not like how they are being implemented.

“I feel like the people who are already students, rather than the newcomers are affected more. As everyone right now is in the questioning stage, where there are a lot of questions, but very few answers,” Bagdadi said.

She said she disagreed with the idea that people are favouring certain fields over others.

“Certain streams in certain colleges absolutely do align with the labour market demands,” she said. “This shortage, I believe, is due to a lack of people signing up for those, rather than them not existing.”

She said potential students considering Canada as a future study option should review the prospects of their field and the job market before investing any money.

The PGWP program has been a popular route for international students to gain Canadian work experience post-graduation.

In addition to the changes to the PGWP, Canada had earlier announced reforms to the International Student Program on Feb. 5, 2024.

Some of these changes included an intake cap on new study permit applications, and eligibility for open work permits limited to spouses of students in graduate and professional degree programs only.