Here’s why students in Canada shouldn’t just rely on part-time jobs to cover living expenses

part-time jobs in canada
Part-time jobs in Canada are not enough to cover living expenses / Source: SCOTT OLSON / AFP

Canada is widely known as a country that welcomes international students. It has a fairly flexible immigration system that gives students greater opportunities to stay and work in Canada after graduation. On top of that, it hosts a number of world renowned universities, one of the best healthcare systems in the world, and gorgeous surroundings to boot. 

Naturally, international students from far and wide travel to Canada for their education. It’s a huge cost, but one that many figure they’ll be able to pay by working alongside their studies. 

The reality, however, is that international students should never rely on part-time jobs in Canada to help cover their living expenses. Here’s why. 

Part-time jobs in Canada are not enough to cover high living costs

What with rent, groceries, and travel, international students in Canada have to spend a lot on their living expenses. It’s generally recommended that students have more than the 10,000 Canadian dollars they’re required to show as part of their visa application, as rent can cost up to CA$8,400 per year — and that’s not including everything else. 

Though it’s relatively cheaper than the US and UK, Canada is notorious for being an extremely expensive country to live in. Part-time jobs can only cover some of this amount. Most of these jobs offer minimum wage, meaning that students on average earn CA$11.45 to CA$16 per hour. 

While this may seem like a decent amount, international students are only allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week off-campus. If you are a student in Canada, you should never cross this restriction, as it may jeopardise your status in Canada. 

Students are not allowed to work before their first day of university, either, so if you’re planning to travel to Canada before the start of your term, make sure that you have enough to sustain yourself for the time being. 

On top of that, international students are required to pay income tax, meaning that the amount they take home will be significantly less than what they may expect to earn

Combined, part-time jobs are simply not enough to cover living expenses in Canada and should not be taken as a student’s only source of income. 

Balancing work and studies can be difficult on top of getting relevant work placements. Source: Sean Rayford/AFP

Study-work balance is difficult to maintain

A major concern for many international students in Canada is how to manage their part-time work alongside their studies. Of course, many would think that the 20-hour workweek would solve this issue. Still, students often don’t account for travel time, which can eat into the precious hours required for to keep up with classes and assignments. 

The biggest concern for many students on this front, however, is the need to get work experience relevant to their area of study. 

It’s no secret that employers seek out students who have relevant experience on their CVs, making it practically impossible to land a well-paying role without this. 

International students in Canada find this especially difficult. The 20-hour restriction means that most students will not be able to apply for relevant paid work experience during their studies. 

International students are finding it difficult to secure summer placements and internships, affecting their future job prospects. Source: Spencer Platt/AFP

Relying on part-time roles can affect future job prospects

Despite policies giving international students more time to stay and work after graduation, many are unhappy with the fact that they earn less than their domestic counterparts. 

It’s been found that international students are paid “considerably” less in their first five years of graduation, even if their academic credentials are the same as Canadians. This is because of a failure to secure enough local work experience before they graduate. 

This is through no fault of their own, though. Tuvana Sahinturk, a Capital Current reporter and former international student, highlights that internships are notoriously difficult to secure if students need to depend on part-time work to support themselves during the academic term. Finding summer work can be just as difficult due to restrictions on international students. 

“There are often requirements of Canadian citizenship or permanent residency, specifically excluding international students,” explains Sahinturk. “I have personally been a victim of these barriers — not being able to apply for beneficial job opportunities that might lead to employment after graduation because of my status, and having to work for multiple voluntary positions on top of my part-time employment and full-time studies just to have something to put on my resume.”

Finding work after graduation, then, is far more punishing than it should be. “I tell myself I can’t be picky,” says Sahinturk. “I can’t be picky even though I am graduating with double honours from one of the best journalism schools in the country.”