The Benefits of Temporary Residents are Anything but Fleeing

August 2022 - If you feel like you see a lot of “we’re hiring” signs around your community these days, you would be right. That’s because Northern Ontario has a shrinking labour force due in part to baby boomers reaching the age of retirement but also low birth rates and youth out-migration.


The Benefits of Temporary Residents are Anything but Fleeting  - These shortages have widespread impacts because we are short both low-skill and high-skill workers. This means the local coffee shop is probably having a hard time hiring, the hospital is trying to hire more doctors to no avail and good luck to the schools trying to hire francophone teachers.

The problem? There are not enough people working in Northern Ontario to provide all the services people are accustomed to having. In some cases, services our communities absolutely need can’t be offered. Nobody wants hospital emergency room closures to become the norm but unless we find ourselves more nurses and doctors, welcome to the new reality. This is a complex problem, but temporary residents can be a big part of the solution. Northern Policy Institute’s latest paper in partnership with Réseau du Nord explores just how big their economic impact is in Temporary Residents, Permanent Benefits: How temporary residents fill vacancies, pay taxes, and keep the local economy rolling.

Let’s imagine an international student who comes to study at Algoma University. During their studies, the student works a few evening and weekend shifts at a local coffee shop to help cover living expenses. Many students, both Canadian and international work part-time but the number of Canadian students at our post secondary institutions is decreasing while the number of international students is increasing. More students equals more students looking for part-time jobs which equals less vacant positions. An international student also pays considerably more for the same programs which is money to help colleges and universities hire more staff and fund more research, all good things for Northern Ontario.

After completing their university program and falling in love with Northern Ontario, our student decides that Sault Ste. Marie would be a pretty nice place to live for a couple more years at least. On top of that, there are jobs available in the field the student studied in. What does our student do? They apply for a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP)! And with that, they’ve moved on from serving coffee to filling a high-skill position.

A few years down the road, our student now has an established friend group, has perfected the art of downhill skiing at Searchmont, has a list of favourite restaurants and could imagine living the rest of their life here. They go through the process of applying for permanent residency, get approved and make Sault Ste. Marie home. The Post Graduation Work Permit program has been very successful because like our imaginary student, almost three-quarters of all PGWP holders become permanent residents within five years (Statistics Canada 2022).

It is calculated that temporary residents earn at least $279 million annually much of which is reinvested in Northern Ontario by buying groceries, paying rent and supporting other local businesses. If we add tuition paid to Northern Ontario post secondary institutions to the income of temporary residents (because they spend their income in our communities), we get $455 million worth of income spent in Northern Ontario.

Temporary residents already play an important role in the Northern Ontario economy. However, as more Canadians reach the age of retirement, more people will need to be attracted to the region. As the PGWP has demonstrated, there is a lot of potential for temporary residents to become permanent residents and make Northern Ontario their home. For this to happen, it will be important to address issues in our communities such as housing shortages and inadequate public transit to ensure they are welcoming places for temporary residents. Retaining temporary residents has promise of alleviating labor market shortages but also enriching the social and cultural aspects of Northern Ontario which can help our communities and our population to prosper for years to come.


Amelia Spacek is a Policy Analyst at NPI

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2 Reader Comments

  • Comment

    Posted By Charlie Baek on 5/3/2024 10:40:40 AM


    I really enjoyed the article. I agree with you on the benefits of temporary residents. As a citizen of the Sault, I see the benefits of these students every day. Seeing all these international students work and study is a good feeling as both the students and residents benefit each other. 


  • Poem

    Posted By Anthony Scaffeo on 5/3/2024 10:36:07 AM

    The Benefits of Temporary Residents

    In Northern Ontario, there's a labor shortage in our midst

    Both low-skill and high-skill, it's a problem that we can't dismiss

    Our hospitals are struggling, our schools are in need

    And our local coffee shop can't find workers to feed

    But temporary residents, they offer a solution

    Their skills and talents, a much-needed infusion

    They come to study, to work and to stay

    And their impact on our economy, it grows every day

    From serving coffee to filling high-skilled positions

    Temporary residents, their contributions are limitless

    They earn and spend, adding to our economy's growth

    And many choose to stay, becoming permanent residents of our home

    So let's welcome temporary residents with open arms

    And work to address issues like housing and transit to keep them from harm

    For they have the potential to enrich our social and cultural sphere

    And help our communities and population to prosper, year after year.

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