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Agriculture and agri-food labour statistics

Released: 2022-06-13

In 2021, the number of temporary foreign workers saw its strongest growth since 2016

In 2021, Canada welcomed 61,735 temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector, up 11.9% from 2020. This was the biggest increase since 2016, after a year marked by challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, 30,695 temporary foreign workers came to work in the food and beverage manufacturing sector in 2021, up 8.1% compared with 2020.

The need for temporary foreign workers is related to a shortage of workers in the agriculture sector. According to the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, the job vacancy rate in the crop production sector was 8.8% in the second quarter of 2021, compared with 4.6% for all sectors.

In Canada, temporary foreign workers represented around one-quarter of all agriculture workers in 2021. In the food and beverage manufacturing sector, temporary foreign workers represented about one-tenth of the total number of employees.

Ontario greenhouses employ nearly a quarter of all temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector

In 2021, close to 27,000 temporary foreign workers in agriculture were employed in Ontario, up 11.5% from 2020. They represented 43.2% of all temporary foreign workers employed in agriculture.

Many temporary foreign workers held a job in specialized greenhouse, nursery and floriculture operations in the province. Nearly a quarter of all workers (23.0%) who came to Canada in 2021 worked in this type of operation in Ontario. Furthermore, these types of operations in Ontario saw the strongest growth in number of temporary foreign workers over the last year (+16.7% to 14,171).

Vegetable and melon farms, and fruit and tree nut farms in Ontario were two other types of operations that brought in more temporary foreign workers in 2021, accounting for 14.4% of all temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector in 2021.

The number of temporary foreign workers in the food and beverage manufacturing sector in Ontario rose 5.6% to 10,072 in 2021. The majority of workers were employed in bakeries and tortilla manufacturing (more than 3,000 workers in 2021), and meat product manufacturing (more than 2,000).

The number of temporary foreign workers in Quebec's agriculture sector rises

In Quebec, the number of temporary foreign workers in agriculture increased by 15.7% to 18,216 in 2021—nearly 1 in 3 temporary foreign worker (29.5%) in the agriculture sector worked in the province. The vast majority were employed by vegetable and melon farms (9.2%); greenhouse, nursery and floriculture operations (7.3%); and fruit and tree nut farms (5.6%).

The number of temporary foreign workers in the food and beverage manufacturing sector in Quebec also rose 10.1% to 9,864 in 2021. Similar to Ontario, the majority of these workers were also in meat product manufacturing and in bakeries and tortilla manufacturing.

Nationally, just under 1 in 5 temporary foreign workers was employed in British Columbia (16.6%). In 2021, British Columbia welcomed 10,266 temporary foreign workers to Canada's agriculture sector, an increase of 7.8% from the previous year. The industry that employed the most temporary foreign workers was greenhouse, nursery and floriculture operations.

Mexico and Guatemala provided two-thirds of temporary foreign workers in Canada

Many countries contribute to swelling of the ranks in Canada's agricultural workforce. A total of 168 countries were represented among the temporary foreign worker population who worked in Canada's agriculture sector in 2021.

In 2021, 43.8% of temporary foreign workers came from Mexico, 23.3% from Guatemala and 14.1% from Jamaica. The increase of temporary foreign workers from Guatemala was the biggest, rising by 3,091 from 2020 to 2021.

Temporary foreign workers represent a diverse population

Certain socioeconomic characteristics of temporary foreign workers are available for the 2020 reference year.

In 2020, 18.4% of temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector, and that of food and beverage manufacturing, were women. However, the proportion varied from one sector to another.

For example, women occupied 8.4% of the jobs in agriculture, but 37.1% of the jobs in food manufacturing. The industries that employed the most foreign women were bakeries and tortilla manufacturing (3,131), meat product manufacturing (2,547), and greenhouse, nursery and floriculture operations (2,356).

The average age of temporary foreign workers in the agri-food sector was 45 years.

  Note to readers

This analysis is based on data from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Labour Statistics Program, which uses administrative data to provide annual data on salaried employees working in the agriculture and food manufacturing sectors.

This release presents data for the 2021 reference year. However, the data for the 2020 reference year have been revised upward, because of the fact that many temporary foreign workers finally succeeded in entering the country late in 2020, after delays in their arrival at the start of the season.

The proportions of temporary foreign workers among all workers reported at the beginning of the article were produced by dividing the estimated number of temporary foreign workers by the number of workers in the 2021 Census of Agriculture (for the agriculture sector) and by the estimated total number of workers from the Labour Force Survey (for the food and beverage manufacturing sector).

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; infostats@statcan.gc.ca) or Media Relations (statcan.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.statcan@statcan.gc.ca).

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