Underemployed immigrants a loss for Revenue Canada

posted on July 23, 2014

By Valentina Ruiz Leotaud, Vancouver Observer | Link to Article

By Valentina Ruiz Leotaud, Vancouver Observer | Link to Article

Internationally trained professionals keep landing in survival and entry-level jobs, or in positions not related to their field of expertise. The consequences of this phenomenon go beyond the individual frustration. The economy as a whole is impacted.

Philip Mwimanzi is an internationally trained dentist struggling to go back to his field.

When you look like a foreigner–as I do–you get to listen to many stories from immigrants who feel cheated by “the land of opportunity” they thought Canada would be. For example:

A chef with eight years of experience in the Philippines and the Middle East who now has to juggle five jobs as a line cook.

An award-winning architect from Mexico who now has to take stock every morning from 5:00 a.m. at a convenience store.

A psychologist from Serbia who had to clean floors for several years in Canada to earn money to reclaim her former career.

A dentist from Tanzania, with a PhD he earned in Japan, who settled for a post-doctoral fellowship position in order to support his family so that he could take the examinations that would allow him to get re-certified, and not get bankrupted in the process.

His case is less dramatic than the others because even though he’s not doing what he loves most, he’s working in a research related to his PhD in viral immunology.

Yet, he says: “It’s not fair. It’s not fair at all.”

Philip Mwimanzi was granted permanent residency on the basis that he is a highly-qualified health provider. Nobody told him it would take so long and so much money to put his hands back into dentistry. Around $5,000 in courses and a loan to cover the $12,000 that the National Dental Examining Board of Canada’s tests cost are among the expenses he has had to deal with in order to reclaim his career.

Two years have passed by and the waiting continues. He’s hoping to be able to work as a dentist again by March 2016.

“I wish there was a place where you could go and find all the information,” he said.

The authorities’ reply

I met Mwimanzi at the organization where he got his loan. We were both there the day the Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney was going to announce extra funding for the program Mwimanzi is part of.

Having heard all these stories, I decided to ask Minister Kenney a question, during his press conference.

“Besides the individual results, what have been the consequences for Canada of having very skilled people ending up in survival jobs?”

First Kenney acknowledged that there’s an “unacceptable waste of human potential” among newcomers to Canada. Then, he dodged the ramifications of what he was saying. “Look, the good news is that the data tells us that over the course of time most of those foreign trained professionals get into good jobs,” he said.

That course of time is not short, though. A document endorsed by Kenney’s office recognizes that it takes a decade for newcomers to step out from the entry-level positions they are offered when they arrive.

Another document titled Immigrants’ education and required job skills published on Statistics Canada’s website, gives specific numbers. “In 2006, 28 per cent of recent immigrant men and 40 per cent of women held this kind of employment [jobs with low educational requirements].”

In a country where four out of 10 working-aged foreign born individuals hold a university degree and where skilled workers from abroad are always arriving, the prior statement implies that there’s always a big amount of people working below their skill levels.

To drive the point home, a report titled Who Drives a Taxi in Canada? revealed that 10,600 immigrant taxi drivers countrywide had at least some post-secondary education and were considered overqualified for the job in 2012.

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