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Temporary work visas and offshoring in IT: so much for a knowledge economy

By Steph Guthrie

In light of the scandal at RBC, technology workers would benefit from some frank discussions about outsourcing, offshoring and temporary work visas.

A recent report from IDC Canada indicates that the percentage of Canadian firms that send jobs offshore has doubled since 2008. The Star reported that, together, Canadian employers pay $15 billion for outsourced IT services. They spend one fifth of that on work done outside the country. Though the phenomenon is not limited to technology jobs, computer professionals topped [pdf] the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008 list of “offshorable occupations.”

Businesses move jobs offshore to save money, point final. When businesses use Canada’s expanded “Temporary Foreign Worker Program,” it’s for the same reason and even as part of the same process, as the RBC case makes clear. Toronto researcher Salimah Valiani backs up that anecdotal case with a few numbers in a recent Rabble article:

A total of 9,989 work permits were issued to migrant engineers employed by Ontario firms, with a high of 2,351 permits in 2006. Meanwhile, other Citizenship and Immigration Canada data show that 45,628 internationally educated engineers immigrated to Toronto as permanent residents between 2000 and 2005. By 2005-2006, only 2.5 per cent of newcomers employed in Toronto were working as engineers.

Valiani argues that these numbers fly in the face of employers’ protestations that they use the TFWP because they simply can’t find the people they need in Canada.

You probably noticed that the data Valiani is working with is nearly ten years old. We couldn’t find any fresher numbers on trends in outsourcing/offshoring IT and tech jobs in Canada.

What’s going on where you work, or used to work? Were outsourcing / offshoring / temporary work visas being used? Please share! With the cuts to Stats Canada, this might be the best way to find out what’s really happening.

Steph Guthrie is the moderator of the MediaTech Commons. She’s an internet animator and a full-time feminist. You can join her at the MediaTech Commons by signing up here. Already a member? Log in here.

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