International students working under the table

Under the table jobs, commonly known as ‘cash jobs’ have picked up momentum among international students looking for an alternative way to meet their expenses in the city.

Brittany Barber
Staff Reporter
Preeteesh Peetabh Singh
News Editor

International students working under the table. Illustration: Samantha Bullis/The Dialog

Illustration: Samantha Bullis/The Dialog

Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and with that comes students looking to further their education from outside countries. With students coming from over 100 different countries to study at George Brown College (GBC) and tuition fees rising, the pressure is on them to start finding work as soon as possible.

Under the table jobs, commonly known as “cash jobs” have picked up momentum among international students looking for an alternative way to meet their expenses in the city.

These jobs do not require a social insurance number or a work permit. It’s a deal between the employer and the employee to work for cash. The employers sometimes pay below the minimum wage and dodge taxes,  while employees often work more than the specified hours they are allowed.

But of course it’s illegal.

“The reason why we have to take cash jobs because tuition and living expenses are very high in the city,” said a former business student at GBC who asked to remain anonymous as it could lead to legal complications. “There is lot of exploitation when we work for cash. There is insecurity. We don’t get paid on time and sometimes don’t get paid at all.”

Under current rules, international students have to wait for the first six months before being eligible for an off-campus work permit.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the new rules for international students will take effect on June 1. The six-month waiting period will be abolished and students with valid study permits pursuing academic, vocational or professional training of six months or more that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate at a designated institution, will be eligible to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic session and full-time during scheduled breaks.

CIC claims that new regulations will improve services to genuine students, while protecting Canada’s international reputation for high-quality education and reducing the potential for fraud and misuse of the program.

Tuition fees for international students at GBC have increased, effective May 5, from $5,700 to $6,440 per semester for both diploma and certificate programs. Degree programs are increasing by $950 this year for a total of $8,250 per semester.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the average rent for a two bedroom apartment in the city’s centre is roughly $1,213 per month.

Working at minimum wage at 20 hours a week, can earn up to $888 a month. Rental, on top of tuition fees being on the rise and the limited amount of hours an international student is allowed to work, the numbers just don’t add up.

A marketing student from GBC who also asked that we do not use their name because they feared deportation explains why they are willing to work for cash. “We go for cash jobs for two reasons, everything is so expensive; and they have a lot of restrictions on work permits.”

Citing their own personal story they said, “There is an employment agency in Cabbagetown, I went there looking for a job. After a few days they called me and said that they have some labour jobs available. They don’t need your SIN, or work permit; they just want you to work. They collaborate with employers. They said that they will take 1.5 per cent commission per hour.”

Tutoring, editing classmates’ work, dog walking, working in repairs, being a handyman or participating in day labour are some of the jobs available under the table today.

The International Centre at GBC is more than happy to work with international students. However, they can not help students with resident visas, study, or work permits. You will be directed to the official CIC website or call centre.

International students currently have the option of working for the school without a work permit. However, if you can handle the workload, it is possible to work for the college while working elsewhere on a valid work permit and there is no law or policy keeping student from working 20 hours off campus and 20 hours on campus.

Not declaring income is a federal offence and may result in deportation for international students. But with tuition fees on the rise, and without outside support from family members or loans, how can the average international student afford to live in Toronto?


International students working under the table