THE US has the highest number of immigrants admitted — an average of one million annually. However, the focus is on family reunification instead of immigrant applicants in the employment-based categories.
In 2020, only about 200,000 immigrant visa applicants were issued green cards, based on their occupation, mainly under the second and third employment-based preference categories (aliens with advanced degrees, professionals and skilled workers).
Of the 707,362 immigrants admitted that year, the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Statistics shows that 236,537 did not have occupations outside of home, 139,629 were students or children, 247,252 had no known occupations and 44,989 were unemployed.
Canada, on the other hand, sets an immigrant-selection system that puts a premium on young applicants with skills, education, work experience and proficiency — in English and French or vice versa.
The Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has two pipelines for intending immigrants just like the US does — employment class and family class. However, emphasis is given to the skilled worker-immigrant selection system through Express Entry.
Here, intending immigrants must complete a candidate profile and submit their application as long as they meet the 100 points minimum.
2 official languages for more points
Express Entry applicants may get points for a first official language and extra points for the second official language — English or French.
Most applicants with French proficiency were those bound for Quebec, the rest may select from any of the 11 provinces and territories.
A year after introducing Express Entry, only three out of 21,562 immigrants chose Quebec as the provincial destination. In 2015, 2 percent of invited candidates were French-speaking, though they only represented 1 percent of candidates in the Express Entry pool.
In 2016, the percentage went up to 2.8 percent of French speakers invited to apply.
On June 6, 2017, further changes were made to Express Entry. Candidates are awarded 30 additional points if they have French-language proficiency or a sibling in Canada.
Other changes and points introduced were: provincial nomination (600 points), arranged employment (maximum 200 points), Canadian educational credentials (maximum 30 points) and siblings in Canada (15 points).
Two years later, the number of French-proficient Express Entry candidates was 4,623. That total exhibited an increase in the subsequent years: 5,518 in 2019 and 7,105 in 2020.
On Oct. 27, 2020, then Immigration Minister Marco Mendocino announced proficiency in French as a criterion that a candidate could use to increase CRS score and ranking.
The next year, 155,635 French-speaking immigrants were admitted into Quebec, compared to 124,715 in 2019 and 65,670 in 2021.
Are French speakers not skilled enough?
Apparently, proficiency in French per se did not translate to having skilled immigrants needed to keep Quebec’s economy running.
On April 26, 2022, Quebec’s Minister of Employment Jean Boulet announced that Quebec was facing “a major, acute labor shortage that is affecting the province’s economy.” Boulet said Quebec “will have to hire foreign workers to meet workforce needs in the coming years” with an initial step of recruiting 3,000 workers mainly from French-speaking countries such as France and Morocco.
Focus will be on French-speaking workers in sectors with greatest, immediate need such as information technology, engineering, the construction industry, and health and daycare services. Hotel and restaurant industries are also target benefactors of the Francophone-directed recruitment.
While Boulet admitted that Quebec needs no less than 1.4 million vacant positions to be filled by 2030, he said the province “does not plan to increase Quebec’s immigration threshold of 50,000 newcomers annually.”
Shortage of workers, not of French speakers
Covid-19 and the French-language hump apparently brought Quebec’s economy to a standstill.
Sixty-five occupations were added to the facilitated LMIA list for Quebec on May 27.
The newly updated list is significant since many more occupations for machine operators in industry, clerks and drivers were included.
Effective June 10, 2022, the program is prioritizing certain occupations in Quebec, which are considered essential during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Occupations in the health care industries were front and center: RNs, physicians, allied primary health practitioners, pharmacists, medical laboratory technologists, technicians, and pathologists’ assistants.
The list also includes PTs, RTs, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists, licensed practical nurses, other technical occupations in therapy and assessment; nurse’s aides, orderlies and patient service associates as well as other assisting occupations in support of health services.
“Effective Jan. 12, 2022, and until June 30, 2022, Employment and Social Development Canada will suspend minimum advertising requirements for employers applying for a labor market impact assessment (LMIA) to hire temporary foreign workers in primary agriculture. Employers are expected to continue efforts to recruit Canadians and permanent residents.However, employers will not be required to meet TFWP minimum advertising requirements or submit proof with their LMIA application.”
In addition, the governments of Canada and Quebec have reached an agreement to launch a pilot project under the temporary foreign worker program (TFWP). The agreement will introduce flexibilities for Quebec employers in the TFWP.
Cap on low wage positions
Not so fast, though.
As of Jan. 10, 2022, and until Dec. 31, 2023, Reuters reported last May 27 that “Quebec employers seeking to hire applications foreign workers in the forestry, logging, food, beverage, and tobacco manufacturing, retail trade excluding food, health care and accommodation-food services are subject to a 20 percent to 30 percent limit on the proportion of TFWs in low-wage positions at a specific work location.”
Employers and recruited foreign workers, however, must comply with Quebec’s new law aggressively promoting French language usage in the province.
The law was passed by a majority of Quebec legislators last week “despite the vocal opposition from minority English-speakers, businesses, health-sector advocates, and indigenous peoples just as the province heads to the polls in October,” Reuters reported.
The French-language law under Bill 96 is seen by employers in and out of Quebec as an unnecessary burden and raises the risk of being sued for having workers who cannot serve customers 100 percent in French.
Employers are required to exert “reasonable effort to avoid making other languages besides French a job requirement. This could make it harder for hospitals, for example, to offer services to patients in another language.”
In addition, “contracts would need to be provided to consumers in French even if the parties wanted it in English, raising translation costs. Court proceedings would now have to be in French for businesses.”
When employers, businesses let their bottom line speak, Quebec may grudgingly lend an ear.
Otherwise, laissez faire could translate to vivre et laisser mourir — live and let die.