The Cream of the Crop
When the previous government of Canada was pitching the benefits that the new Express Entry immigration selection system would bring, the phrase ‘attracting the cream of the crop’ was heard often. As Conservative Ministers criss-crossed the country, reassuring stakeholders about the new system, this particular line was trotted out time and again.
Little did we know, we should have taken it literally.
When the now-governing Liberals, through the renamed department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly known as CIC), released a comprehensive report on how Express Entry performed over its first 12 months, one particular set of data stuck out above the rest. Of all the many hundred occupations within the National Occupational Classification, two of them together represented a full 16 percent of all invited candidates. These occupations were cooks and food service supervisors.
Now, let me be clear. There is every need for Canada to attract and retain workers in the food service industry, but is having around one in every six newcomers be a food service worker really beneficial to the national labour market? The stated goal of Express Entry, pre-launch, was for Canada to have an economic immigration system that was fast, flexible, and responsive to labour market realities. Something is amiss.
The most frustrating aspect is that, though it may not have been perfect, the skilled worker selection system was working better than ever by 2014. If you worked in an in-demand occupation, Canada gave you opportunities. If not, there was still the Arranged Employment route. Processing times were coming down — way down. People were getting permanent resident visas within months, sometimes as quickly as four months.
So, with all the Express Entry data from 2015 now available, what can we say the system solved? Granted, processing times have been held to months rather than years, and this is positive news. But has it truly been responsive to the labour market? I don’t think so.
The government could play a more active roll in adjusting the number of invited candidates in different occupations by creating an Area of Training or Occupation list that would award bonus points within the ranking system. The existence of such a list, or lists, would provide an indication to candidates as to which newcomers Canada needs, and who is most likely to immigrate successfully. In being able to create and change the list on an ongoing basis, the government would have an increased role in adjusting the number of immigrants received in different occupations.
Either way, something needs to be done. A system that is this skewed towards certain occupations is not a system that is working in Canada’s best interests.