|Subject: Immigrants in Canada: Have PhD, must sweep
|Immigrants in Canada: Have Ph.D, must sweep
By Clifford Krauss
VANCOUVER, British Columbia: Gian Sangha wanted to work so badly that he cut his hair and removed his turban for job interviews, even though it compromised his Sikh beliefs. He sent hundreds of resumes. He prayed fervently and finally bought a Buddha statue for good luck.
But Sangha, 55, an environmental scientist from India, could not seem to get a job in Canada, his adopted country, despite a doctorate from Germany, two published books and university teaching experience in the United States.
"Here in Canada, there is a hidden discrimination," Sangha said over cups of Indian tea and spicy pakoras, or fritters, in the dining room of his home in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey.
To scrape by, he once cut lawns. Now he does clerical work and shares his house with his extended family. It was not supposed to be this way in Canada, which years ago put out a welcome mat to professionals from around the developing world.
With a declining birth rate, an aging population and labor shortages in many areas, Canada, a sparsely populated nation, has for decades opened its doors to engineers, health professionals, software designers and electricians.
But the results of this policy have been mixed, for Canada and for the immigrants. Recent census data and academic studies indicate that the incomes and employment prospects for immigrants are deteriorating.
Specialists say a growing number of immigrants have been forced to rely on unemployment insurance and welfare, and some have returned to their homelands or migrated to the United States.
About 25 percent of recent immigrants with university degrees are working at jobs that require only high school diplomas or less, government data show.
"The most mobile workers in the world come to Canada and find themselves immobilized," said Faviola Fernandez, a teacher from Singapore who became an immigrant advocate after finding the process of getting a teaching license in Canada so unwieldy that she gave up.
Over the past decade, the country has attracted 200,000 to 250,000 immigrants a year.
As a percentage of the population, that is triple the rate in the United States. Canada´s largest cities are ethnic diverse. One in every six people in Canada is an immigrant, giving it the world´s second-largest proportion of immigrants. Only Australia´s is higher.
Officials in South Africa and other countries have even begun to complain to Canadian officials that they are losing talent trained in their universities in a brain drain they can ill afford.
But highly skilled immigrants, who are nearly half of those who come here, frequently drive taxis and trucks, work in factories or as security guards and hope their children will do better.
The Canadian public continues to support the government´s goal of increasing immigration, and relations among ethnic groups are good, though neighborhoods in some cities are becoming more segregated. But some fear that if opportunities for immigrants do not expand, social cohesion may suffer.
"The existing system is broken," said Jeffrey Reitz, a sociologist who studies immigration at the University of Toronto. "The deteriorating employment situation might mean that Canada will not be able to continue this expansionist immigration program in the positive, politically supported environment that we´ve seen in the past."
Reitz estimates that foreign-educated immigrants earn a total of $2 billion less than an equivalent number of native-born Canadians with comparable skills because they work in jobs below their training levels. Using census data, he found that in 1980, new immigrant men earned 80 percent of the salaries of Canadian-born men. That proportion has dropped to less than 70 percent.
He concludes that immigrant earnings in Canada are declining to the lower levels of the United States, where the skill levels of immigrants tend to be lower.
Academic specialists and immigrant advocates say that discrimination is one of the many reasons for the problem. Native-born Canadians are better educated now than 25 years ago, so immigrants have more competition, some specialists note. But all agree that professional organizations and provincial licensing agencies have been slow to recognize foreign professional qualifications. The children of immigrants, who enter the job market with Canadian credentials, typically do better at acquiring high-paying jobs, immigration specialists note.
"We have an arcane infrastructure of professional organizations that essentially mitigate against the immediate integration of these highly skilled immigrants," Joe Volpe, the minister of citizenship and immigration, said in an interview.
"It´s a shame we have a shortage of doctors, and yet we have thousands of foreign-trained medical doctors and we don´t recognize their credentials," he said. "We haven´t found an easy way of assessing their qualifications."
Volpe said he was concerned that news from disappointed job seekers would seep back to their native countries and discourage qualified people from immigrating. In a recent speech, Volpe committed more than $250 million over five years to pay for programs to accelerate professional integration.
Since the Canadian Embassy in India and a Canadian immigration consultant encouraged Sangha, the environmental scientist, to move his family to Canada in 1996, he has not had a single job that fits his qualifications. He would have left Canada long ago, he says, if not for his two children, who have become acclimated to Canada and are now young adults. In 2001, Sangha was turned down for a job as an environmental inspector with an agency of the Northwest Territories government. He took the case to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, where it is under consideration.
The territorial government agency told the commission that Sangha had been rejected because he was overqualified and would have become bored. But Sangha said in an interview that during his job interview, an agency official had interrupted him and not paid attention to his responses, and that he was a victim of discrimination.
"It´s a painful life," he said. "I´m angry and frustrated. I never thought it would be like this in Canada."
MONDAY, JUNE 6, 2005
| (in reply to: Immigrants in Canada: Have PhD, must sweep)
You just posted this letter last week. Are you running out of material?
| (in reply to: Immigrants in Canada: Have PhD, must sweep)
I am an imigrent with no education and i just got a job makeing $75,000 a year. I dont know why you cant find a job but maybe its becuse you sound like an asshole!!!!
| (in reply to: Immigrants in Canada: Have PhD, must sweep)
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| (in reply to: Immigrants in Canada: Have PhD, must sweep)
Updated Mon. Nov. 21 2005 5:37 PM ET
By Marleen Trotter, W-FIVE
Canada, like many other wealthy countries, wants to attract the best and brightest from developing nations.
The promise? Bring your education and skills and the jobs are waiting. In particular, the Canadian government has been encouraging highly skilled and highly educated immigrants.
In a major speech in September, Prime Minister Paul Martin put heavy emphasis on the need to increase immigration levels to combat an aging population, low birth rate and a shortage of skills.
"We need immigrants," said Martin. "Quite frankly we need more and we need them to succeed."
But can we really accommodate more? What about the tens of thousands already here?
Many who came with dreams of a better life find it impossible to work in their chosen profession and complain of a system that offers little help to allow them to practice their skills.
Federal government documents obtained by W-FIVE show that skilled immigrants are shunning Canada. In 2000, Canadian embassies and consulates abroad received more than 300,000 immigrant skilled worker visa applications. But in 2004 that number declined to only 177,000.
Even more dramatic is the fall in skilled worker applications from China (including Hong Kong), which dropped from 60,000 in 2000 to only 8,000 in 2004
The Maple Leaf
For Eva Zhai, who grew up in China, the Canadian maple leaf represented a symbol of opportunity and independence in a far-off land.
Zhai immigrated to Canada because she dreamed of a better life for herself and her daughter Nicole.
She didn´t leave China because she was poor or desperate. At home in Shanghai, she was a successful marketing executive for a large multinational company. Hers was just the kind of expertise she was told would land her a good job in Canada.
But Zhai hasn´t been able to find any job that matches her qualifications. Her dream is starting to die.
"Like now I feel a bit lost. Like a failure for the career improvement," says Zhai. "I thought I have a very solid multinational background you know. It should be I can fit in."
Prescription for dissatisfaction
Hamid Zarrinkalam was also led to believe he would have no trouble fitting in once he immigrated to Canada.
An experienced pharmacist back in Iran, Zarrinkalam was told he would have to be re-certified in Canada. But he was never told it would take almost three years, that he would literally have to start over, go back to school, write five exams and do another internship to re-qualify.
Zarrinkalam feels fortunate to have a job as a pharmacy technician to support himself while he studies for his licensing examinations. But his work as an assistant is a long way from managing a pharmacy, which is what he did back in Iran.
"I passed my university (in Iran). I got my degrees over there," he says. "So I´m ready to (work as a pharmacist). But here -- no."
By the time W-FIVE met Raj Kumar, he was already packing up his dreams for a better life in Canada, along with his wife Shivani and their two children. After five years in this country, the engineer with a PhD from New Delhi has been unable to find any work in his profession.
"I never thought that I would not find a job here," Kumar told W-FIVE.
Disappointed and desperate, he´s giving up on Canada and moving to the United States. There, he found a job with a high-tech company based in Princeton, New Jersey.
"Within ten days I got two offers (in the U.S.)," he said.
Before emigrating, Kumar was educated and taught at one of the most prestigious technical schools in the world -- The Indian Institute of Technology.
But once in Canada, he couldn´t even land an entry-level position and ended up doing tutoring and courier jobs. He never thought he would be unable to find work once here.
Immigrants come from different countries, with different backgrounds. But they all have one thing in common. They qualified to immigrate to Canada under its point system for skilled workers. It is a point system that rewards higher education and experience. Everyone must pass an international language test.
A government presentation shown to prospective immigrants, obtained by W-FIVE, shows what´s needed: 10 points for being in the right age bracket; 25 points for education; 10 points for arranged employment; 16 points for speaking one of Canada´s official languages (French or English); 8 additional points for the second official language. A prospective immigrant needs 67 out of 100 points to qualify.
The huge number of points given for education means that it´s very easy for prospective immigrants with university degrees and good jobs.
Skilled immigrants are invited into Canada based on their impressive education, experience and language abilities only to find out that once they get here those credentials aren´t recognized, their foreign experience doesn´t count and their English isn´t good enough.
They find themselves locked out by employers who want Canadian degrees and Canadian experience, by regulated professions that make it almost impossible to re-qualify.
Skilled surgeon can´t work while Canada needs doctors
Joshua Raj, an experienced orthopedic surgeon has performed more than 1,000 joint replacements in Malaysia and the United Kingdom.
Canada needs orthopedic surgeons, but once he arrived in Canada, Dr. Raj he was told he would have to go back to medical school for a year, then wait in line and do another four-year residency, if he could even find one. Dr. Raj has come to the conclusion that he will never be able to practice medicine in Canada.
"When I make an incision in patient in England, Ireland or Wales under the skin they look exactly the same as a Canadian," says Dr. Raj. "The bones are the same, the arteries are the same, the nerves are the same. I don´t see why I cannot work here."
One couple in Alberta is determined to take on Canada´s failing immigration system. Prem and Nessa Premakumaran are suing the federal government, accusing Canada of wooing professionals like themselves under false pretences.
Now living in Edmonton, Prem and Nessa were educated in the United Kingdom and worked for 20 years in London, England, in accounting and office administration before emigrating to Canada.
They claim that during their interview at the Canadian High Commission they were told they would have no trouble finding work in their fields given their experience and qualifications. Today, they complain, that they were sold a bill of goods.
"If they are looking for slaves to do the jobs, menial jobs, they should advertise they are looking, Canada is looking for slaves to do the menial jobs," complains Prem.
Since coming to Canada, it´s been a constant struggle for Prem and Nessa to support their young family. In spite of their global experience and a booming Alberta economy, no one would hire them.
Instead of working in finance and office administration, the Premakumarans have been forced to take whatever jobs they could get to survive, cleaning hotel rooms and offices.
At one point Prem was even forced to shovel snow in front of Canada Place to make ends meet.
Ontario condemns federal immigration
So what´s wrong? Ontario´s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Michael Colle blames a federal visa system that is out of touch with the reality of the job market. Colle says the federal point system gives priority to people with academic credentials regardless of whether there is work for them.
"The immigration system in Canada is broken," Colle told W-FIVE in an interview. "It´s like inviting someone for dinner to your home and you basically feed them crumbs.
"The problem is that we in Ontario may need welders, we need construction workers, we need truck drivers. So the point system doesn´t do you any good if you´re a truck driver who wants to come to Canada from Romania. Yet if you´re a PhD from Bucharest you´ll probably get in but you may not get work but if you´re a truck driver you get to work immediately. Well, then the point system isn´t working? That´s an understatement."
Bad news spreading fast
Our reputation as a nation that welcomes the world is at stake. And the bad news about how tough things can be for skilled newcomers in Canada is spreading fast -- via the Internet, messages posted by disappointed, highly technical immigrants who are plugged into the global marketplace.
A recent online article out of New Delhi warns "Far from being the El Dorado of repute, for many immigrants Canada has emerged as a land of unmitigated disaster. From rampant discrimination to hidden booby traps, Indians have been forced into an economic quagmire, having to settle for a dead end job."
And then there´s a website, NOTCANADA.COM, that blasts Canada as a "land of shattered dreams" where "careers, finances and lives are destroyed". The website lists the top eight reasons not to immigrate to Canada. Number one is "No Jobs."
The negative warnings from disillusioned immigrants posted on the website´s forum are shockingly blunt:
"My Canadian dream turned into a nightmare."
"Canadians must be proud of having highly skilled immigrants sweeping floors and washing dishes"
"All of you wanting to migrate: DO NOT DO IT."
Federal minister responds
W-FIVE went to Canada´s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Joe Volpe, to talk about the disconnect between immigrants and the labour market.
In particular we asked him about the many immigrants the program interviewed, who told us they passed the point system and were led to believe they would get jobs in our field, but once in Canada, just hit a brick wall and ended up in dead end jobs.
"I´m one of those that doesn´t believe that any job leads to a dead end," responded Volpe. "I think that work actually ennobles the human spirit."
Volpe appeared taken aback when shown the NOTCANADA.com website.
"Does something like this trouble anybody? It troubles me," he told reporter Victor Malarek. "I want the most positive remarks regarding Canada and my job is to be able to fix the system so that people we invite into our country can hit the ground running."
"The system needs to change. How long is that going to take? Years? I´d do it tomorrow if I could because every day thousands of immigrants are coming only to find jobs aren´t available."
However the immigration minister believes immigrants will eventually find success in Canada.
"The characteristics of immigrant is when one door opens another closes. I don´t mean to be cavalier but I would say to those immigrants they shouldn´t be discouraged while we´re building a system to realize everyone´s talent."
End of the road
But the immigrants W-FIVE met during its investigation are discouraged. If things don´t turn around for Eva Zhai soon, she and her family will go back to China where the economy is booming, even if it means losing face.
Pharmacist Hamid Zarrinkalam is determined to finish what he started and get his licence in Canada. Zarrinkalam insists he will not go back to Iran a failure. But he admits that if he had known the barriers he would face and the time it would take, he would never have chosen to immigrate to Canada. And his decision to come here has cost him his future wife. Zarrinkalam´s fianc??e, a doctor back in Tehran, has decided not to pack up her career and move to Canada after watching him struggle for so long.
As for Prem and Nessa Premakumaran, of Edmonton, their fight to hold Ottawa accountable suffered a setback, when a Federal Court judge recently dismissed their claim ruling: "It is not the role of the courts to order that agencies be set up to assist immigrant workers. These issues ?? have to be settled at the ballot box."
The couple is not giving up. They´ve taken their case to the Federal Court of Appeal.
But Raj Kumar has given up; leaving the country he chose to move to in favour of a guaranteed job in the United States.
"It´s really tough," he said, while packing boxes for his move.
But it´s a move he has to make. The job in the U.S. offers a chance to get back into the engineering profession, to regain his confidence and reclaim his future. Kumar says he owes it to his family, who sacrificed so much for him back in India.
And maybe with American job experience under his belt, Raj might one day return to Canada and get a job that fits his skills here.