In Canada: Filipino Professionals end up in low-paying jobs

Why is it that despite having high levels of education among Filipino immigrants, most of them end up in lower-paying jobs, resulting

In Canada: Filipino Professionals end up in low-paying jobs

In Canada: Filipino Professionals end up in low-paying jobs

in an average income lower than that of most Canadian immigrants?

“The systemic non-recognition of Philippine-earned education and experience is the main cause of this high education – low income discrepancy,” Edwin C. Mercurio, chairperson of the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) told the Ontario Legislature Committee hearing recommendations on Bill 124: An Act to provide fair registration practices in Ontario’s regulated professions.

Speaking to Members of the Ontario Parliament (MPPs) on the third day of the hearings, Mercurio said: “Philippine-trained professionals criticized Canada’s immigration policy and practice of bringing the best and brightest immigrants from the Philippines and other countries through the strict point system. Majority of these immigrants,” he pointed out, “are not absorbed in jobs commensurate to their education and training. These immigrants, he said, end up as a source of high quality cheap labour in Canada.”

Mercurio was joined by panel members Pura Velasco, former CASJ chairperson; and Flor Dandal, CASJ vice chair and director of the
Kababayan Community Centre in presenting systemic barriers faced by Philippine-trained professionals in the access to trades and professions.

CASJ panel members said the recognition of internationally-educated professionals is a vitally important issue to the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ), a coalition of more than 27 Filipino community and other social organizations in Toronto. The Philippines represents one of Canada’s most important sources for immigrations – ranking third in 1990s, after China and India. Based on the 2001 census, just over 223,000 immigrants in Canada identified themselves as Filipinos and around 10,000 new arrivals have been added to this number every year since then. Between 2001 and 2005, 67,000 Filipinos arrived in Canada, making the total of 290,000 Filipinos.

Highly educated

“As a group,” the CASJ chair said, “Filipinos are highly educated. In 2001 almost 57 percent of Filipino immigrants in Toronto had some university-level education. This compared with 33 per cent for all immigrant groups, and just under 35 per cent for residents. Moreover, most Filipinos arrive with a strong command of English and a familiarity with North American institutions. Despite these high levels of human capital, the average wage levels for Filipino men and women are substantially below a variety of comparison groups. Statistical analyses have shown that Filipinos have among the highest levels of occupational segmentation of any immigrant groups (Hiebert, 1999; Kelly, 2005). The non-recognition of their foreign-earned credentials, institutionalized de-skilling, de-professionalization and institutional obstacles to practicing their licensed professions in Canada have caused economic marginalization to Filipino-Canadians, specially, to new arrivals.”

The access to trades and professions is one of the major issues the CASJ is very much concerned and organizationally involved in.

A recent survey conducted by the CASJ in collaboration with Dr. Philip Kelly of York University, explains the de-professionalization, de-skilling and occupational segmentation experienced by many Filipino immigrants in Canada, which to a large part explains this high education-low income discrepancy.

Government statistics for 2001 indicate that 57 percent of Filipino immigrants in Toronto had some university-level education, compared with 35 percent for all Canadians, the study notes.

In few sectors

Yet, Filipinos are concentrated in a few sectors and in lower occupational niches, where on average Filipinos earn less than what visible minority immigrants earn as a whole.

The study, titled “The De-professionalized Filipino: Explaining Subordinate Labour Market Roles in Toronto,” co-authored by Mila Astorga-Garcia and Dr. Philip Kelly explores the causes of such de-professionalization in the Filipino community, using the survey and focus group methods.

Garcia is research advisor of the CASJ, and research analyst with the City of Toronto’s Social Development Division. Kelly is a professor at the Department of Geography, York University.

The main cause identified in the survey and focus groups was the systemic non-recognition of Philippine-earned education and experience. As a result of this systemic barrier, Filipinos are forced to take on survival jobs to support themselves and their families and to meet financial obligations such as debts incurred due to the high cost of immigration. Survival jobs provide no surplus to finance tuition or professional upgrading.

In the survey, 53 percent of the respondents cited non-recognition of credentials and professionals’ licenses as a factor preventing them from practicing their profession. Seventy-eight percent of the survey respondents were college graduates. Eighty percent of live-in caregiver program (LCP) participants in the survey had college degrees. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents said they would consider leaving Ontario in order to practice their professions elsewhere.

Provincial regulatory bodies that make accreditation and licensing decisions were criticized by focus group participants for their basic ignorance of Filipino institutions and qualifications; arbitrariness in application of standards, high cost of enrolment in upgrading courses, and the failure to recognize even third country, including U.S., experience.

Low-paying jobs

Many Filipino professionals thus end up in jobs far below their educational qualifications and skills, training and experience. Half of the survey respondents said they were “overqualified” for their current jobs. This situation applies to both the old-timers as well as newcomers, thus shattering the popularly bandied myth that only the newcomers find difficulty accessing their trades and professions.

Fifty-three percent of post-1990 arrivals said they were overqualified while 41 percent of pre-1990 arrivals said they were overqualified in their present jobs.

In the focus groups, criticism was directed against Canada’s immigration policy and practice of bringing in the best and the brightest immigrants from the Philippines and other countries through their strict point system. Most of these immigrants, however, are not absorbed in jobs commensurate to their education and training, with the end result of immigrants ending up as a source of high quality cheap labour in Canada.

Focus group discussions were held with engineers, accountants, nurses, and with a group of mixed professions, both regulated and unregulated.

The CASJ petitioned the legislature of Ontario to amend the bill in these areas:

Provincial regulatory boards’ policies and practices should be reviewed and changed to allow for a highly informed, professional, fair and efficient accreditation process.

Governments of all three levels should provide effective social supports for immigrants to allow them to settle and find appropriate jobs commensurate to their foreign education, training and experience. The Federal live-in-Caregiver Program (LCP) should be reformed to allow applicants to enter Canada as skilled immigrants, thus allowing them access to housing and social service supports, legal services and labour protection: to train toward eventually practising their professions and trades; and to bring their families with them (thus eliminating the serious social costs of reunification after long years of family separation.) The Provincial Government should thus work with the federal government to change this program, to allow caregivers to come as landed immigrants, so they are not hampered by so many restrictions that result in their denial of access to social supports, legal supports, and training opportunities.

Provide legal, professional and academic assistance to new Canadians seeking recognition of credentials. This includes provision of trained advocates, without charge to applicants, to present the cases of applicants before the regulatory appeal tribunal.

Fully establish a “Fair Registration Code” in the legislation. The strict point system established by the Canadian government to bring the brightest and the best from other countries to Canada must be considered in allowing foreign-trained professionals to practise their professions commensurate to their training and experience after passing fair and acceptable accreditation standards.

The province should provide government subsidized loans to foreign-trained professionals so that they can utilize their skills and enable them to practise their professions, provide the much needed services for Ontarians and participate in nation building.

Grant education points to foreign-trained nurses and other professionals so they can come in as immigrants and not through the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).

Establish a department within the Access Centre established by the act which will fairly evaluate the equivalence of standards between regulatory bodies and educational institutions in different countries and in Ontario. Regulatory bodies will be provided with these data to assist them in determining equivalence of credentials. The Filipino community should be represented in the Access Centres and in the Regulatory Boards.

Among the various professional associations that spoke during the three-day Toronto hearings were: the directors and chief executives of The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Professional Engineers of Ontario, Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Bangladesh, The Chinese Canadian National Council, Canadian Tamil Congress, Registered Nurses of Ontario, Ontario Association of Architects, Certified Management Accountants of Ontario, Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Services Workers, Ontario Federation of Labour, Care Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses, College of Medical Radiation Technologists of Ontario.

Other professional groups from the entire Province of Ontario are slated to submit oral and written recommendations to the Ontario Legislative Committee till December. So far, CASJ is the sole representative from the Filipino community granted official standing on the hearings regarding Bill 124

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