Monday, March 08, 2010
Dubai vs. Toronto: Part 2 - The Harsh Truth Facing Immigrants to Canada
Part 1: The Myths of Dubai
Part 2: The Harsh Truth Facing Immigrants to Canada
Part 3: Living in Toronto
Part 4: The Islamic and Cultural Aspect
Part 5: Dubai or Toronto?
People immigrate to Canada for many reasons. However, in my circles, the primary reason for most people (living in the UAE) suddenly deciding to come to Canada has been their children's education and the future. Let's face it, they have no future in UAE. Even after 20 years of serving there, they are not citizens. The moment they lose their jobs, they have to be on their way home. There are hardly any good quality universities in there. And university tuition in Canada for an international student is expensive. So, for their children's sake, they immigrate.
In an ironic twist, immigrants to Canada from UAE often have less savings than ones from Saudi Arabia or Iran. In those two places, there are so many restrictions that you often don't have avenues to spend money for leisure or luxury. Dubai's a very liberal place, so people buy furniture, spend on life's enjoyments, luxury and often go for holidays abroad, so savings are less when they come to Canada. The primary immigrants also tend to be older, 40-45ish.
Contrast this with immigrants arriving here from Bangladesh or India. They are mostly younger, 25-30ish, lucky to have had a good English education and somehow gotten the immigration to Canada. Anything in Canada for them is an improvement over their previous life.
That's not the case for our Dubai immigrants. As soon as we land here, yes, we have been warned that jobs are hard and standards of life will not be the same and cost of living is significant, but yes, dammit, we are from Dubai, we have some standard!
So the first thing to do is to get a nice place. Yes, the rent may be a bit high than the apartment complex down the street, but this is in a good area! And then, we have to buy some decent furniture. C'mon, why should we buy cheap? What if people visit us? What will they say? An engineer in Dubai, and now living like this?! No way!
And so these people will spend money they don't earn to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't really like. All to maintain a standard that they no longer have. But they are not worried yet, their savings will last them for five to six months! They are sure they will find a job in the meanwhile. So the husband looks at a few job requirements in the paper and says to himself, "I can do this! I used to do this!" And every day he fires in a few applications.
As the days go by, the lack of responses start to get to them. Slowly, the harsh reality and the harsh truth facing immigrants in Canada dawns on them. They do not have "Canadian" experience. Their credentials are not recognized. From top of the pile, used to commanding hundreds, they have now moved to near the bottom.
Then, after a year or two, they start to explore courses offered in colleges; a way to upgrade their skills, and a way to catch up. But by now, the years are against them, and the new technologies are against them. So, when people formerly from UAE meet at parties, no one asks each other "what do you do". It is taboo. The matrimonial bio-datas sent out still spell the father's profession as Engineer or Doctor, which is what they used to do years ago, not Security Guard or Sales Agent, which is what they may be doing now. And so, they comfort themselves in that their children will have a much better future here, they will enjoy a better life and all its comforts due to the parents' sacrifice.
Meanwhile, our immigrants from Bangladesh or India have had no ego to artificially boost or no standard to maintain. They have come here with specific plans - they will take the courses early on, do odd jobs and severely scrimp and save wherever they can, and soon, they will start climbing up the ladder. Youth and effort are on their side.
And thus, Canada loses a highly talented bunch of experienced professionals to jobs such as taxi driver or pizza delivery positions.
More than weather, culture, food or sports, it's jobs that's the big concern for immigrants.
Only 24 per cent of qualified immigrants work in a job that matches their education [Source: Global TV]. When I talked to Stephane Dion sometime ago (when he was running to be leader of the Liberal Party) he recognized this as an important issue and outlined some plans to deal with it. Then he started to run for the position of Prime Minister, forgot all this and got caught up in the 'green' movement. We all know what happened to him.
Things are changing. There are more and more immigrants in the country who are becoming rich and powerful. The Indian community in Canada is very well established, so are their business leaders and Members of Parliament. The Canadian government has continued to significantly push for more foreign credential recognition and progress is being made, however very slowly. With the recession, such concerns have been pushed aside for now, but they will come up again.
For now though, it's jobs, jobs and jobs. There is an annual difference of $20,000 in what an average immigrant family earns and what a regular Canadian family earns, even 10 years after being in Canada. People are people - they can deal with the weather, culture and other other issues in Canada. However, when they immigrate to Canada, they must make plans for the harsh reality that they will not be working in their chosen fields at their desired income levels.
There is a happy ending to this. Ten to fifteen years later, you will find most immigrant families happily settled in Canada. They may not be all doing really well, but they are living well enough, and hard work has paid to success. They love Canada, and are happy with their lives here.
Ten years, though, is a very long time.