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 an average income lower than that of most Canadian immigrants?

Why is it that despite high levels of education among Filipino immigrants, most of them end up in lower-paying jobs, resulting 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 Nov. 22.

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.

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