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Pending, the departure of agricultural workers from Guatemala to Canada

Foto de archivo, cortesía de Mintrab

Despite an increasing number of seasonal agricultural workers seeking to come from Guatemala to Canada, the effects of the pandemic remain latent. The Guatemalan Ministry of Labor (Mintrab) affirmed that at the moment it is not receiving new registrations in the Temporary Work Program.


Geovanna Salazar, Deputy Minister of Social Security and Employment, indicated that efforts are still being made, especially with employers in the United States and Canada to open opportunities in the agricultural and non-agricultural area, but “the expected results have not been obtained due to the restrictions due to the pandemic, “he added.


In 2016, 26 thousand 74 Guatemalan temporary workers traveled to the three countries with which there is an agreement: Mexico, the United States and Canada. In 2020 the figure was 16,848, a significant reduction influenced by the health crisis.


According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minex), last year 9,907 Guatemalans traveled to Canada to work temporarily in Canadian companies, either through the Temporary Worker Program or by direct connection to companies.

The program is a development opportunity for the worker and his family, since the average payment received is $2,000 dollars (about 11,000 quetzales).


Both the Embassy of Guatemala in Canada and the Office of Attention to Migrants have approached groups of businessmen to promote the labor offer of Guatemalans in Canada and have obtained good acceptance, but we have to wait for the opening of borders.


A great challenge for Guatemalan workers

The Deputy Minister of Social Security and Employment explained that upon receiving offers, the database of about 32 thousand people is searched for the profiles that meet the requirements of the available position. “If we do not find the candidate, then we proceed to make a focused call, according to the occupation or the requirement of the employers.”


Kelvin Aguilar, head of the General Directorate of Employment of the Ministry of Labor (Mintrab), explained that agricultural workers from Guatemala travel to Canada within the labor mobility program. “This program pursues state responsibility in complying with the conventions ratified by the International Labor Organization (ILO) for regular, orderly and safe labor migration,” he said.

Unlike the Mexican, the program that allows Guatemalans to come was not negotiated bilaterally between the states in question but between the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and non-profit organizations that represent Canadian employers.

And while in Mexico the state institutions are in charge of selecting workers, Canadian companies can go themselves to recruit employees to Guatemala, thus reducing the possibilities of regulating and protecting workers. On the other hand, Guatemalans are required to pay for their accommodation, while Mexicans are exempt from this fee. Finally, a Guatemalan worker who is expelled from a farm will not have the opportunity to return to Canada under the program, while a Mexican worker will have the possibility to apply for readmission the following year on another farm.

By Silvia Méndez


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