2005年 04月 20日
"A star immigrant gives up on Canada"
（Globe and Mail ４月１９日）
A star immigrant gives up on Canada
By MARINA JIMÉNEZ
Tuesday, April 19, 2005 Page A1
With great reluctance, Umesh Yalavarthy, a physician from southern India, is giving up on the Canadian dream. He and his wife moved to Toronto 2½ years ago. Young, educated and fluent in English, they were ideal immigrants, according to Canada's recruitment plan.
His wife, a chemist, qualified under the point system that seeks to bring professionals to Canada. She sponsored her husband, a recent graduate in family medicine, who expected he would obtain his medical licence here without a problem.
Dr. Yalavarthy, 27, knew Canada had a dire shortage of doctors and was in particular need of family physicians in rural areas. He was prepared to go anywhere.
He passed the Medical Council of Canada evaluating exams. However, three years later, he still couldn't obtain a residency position to repeat the training he had just finished in Hyderabad. There were more than 2,000 foreign-trained doctors vying for just 200 spots.
Turns out, the elusive residency post was much more attainable south of the border. This spring, Dr. Yalavarthy will leave the multicultural milieu of Toronto for Chattanooga, Tenn., a city less than one tenth Toronto's size and in the southern Appalachian Mountains, where hardly any foreigners live. He will become a resident in internal medicine at a hospital there.
"I really love Toronto, and if they ever let me practise here I'll be happy to come back. Our dream was not to emigrate to Tennessee. It was to emigrate to Canada. We have lots of friends here," said Dr. Yalavarthy, whose wife and newborn daughter will join him in a few months.
"But in Canada they doubt our credentials. I think that is unfair. I was one of the top students in my college. In the U.S., if you score well on the exams, you can get a residency to repeat your training."
This conundrum -- the recruitment of qualified professionals whose skills do not compute in the Canadian labour market -- has become a critical issue facing the Immigration Department.
In 2002, Ottawa changed the way it selected immigrants, abandoning the idea of matching newcomers with worker shortages. Now applicants must score 67 out of a possible 100 points in education, skills and language to be accepted here.
The theory is that Canada gets plug-and-play immigrants able to integrate into a knowledge-based economy.
However, the reality is far different. A Statistics Canada study found that 70 per cent of the 164,000 immigrants who settled in 2000 and 2001 had trouble entering the work force. Six in 10 eventually took jobs outside their areas of training.
A 2004 study of 829 immigrant engineers in Ontario found that 55 per cent were unable to find jobs and 29 per cent were working in fields other than engineering and not commensurate with their skills.
There is a crucial bottleneck preventing professional newcomers from working in their chosen fields. The provincial bodies and agencies that regulate medicine, engineering, pharmacy, accounting, teaching, nursing and other professions cannot assess credentials in a timely manner. Many discount overseas training and experience.
At the same time, Canada faces a shortage in the trades, and many white-collar workers are being forced to take jobs sweeping floors and delivering flyers.
Foreign doctors have become bricklayers.
Nurses are slinging coffee at fast-food restaurants.
This failure to use foreign brain power is not just a problem for immigrants.
The Conference Board of Canada found that it costs the economy more than $1-billion a year in lost immigrant income due to underemployment.
Social ills will also result from the deterioration of earnings, warns University of Toronto sociologist Jeffrey Reitz. "Among them are increased demands on the social safety net, more widespread public perception of immigrants as a liability or social problem and political reaction on the part of immigrants themselves."
It used to be that immigrants over time did as well or better financially than their Canadian-born counterparts. The rags-to-riches story was part of the immigrant mythology.
Today, Canada accepts 220,000 to 245,000 newcomers a year (and aims to increase this to 300,000, or 1 per cent of the population), to help offset an aging work force and declining fertility rates. By 2011, immigrants are expected to account for all net population growth.
But they no longer are able to catch up to native-born Canadians, despite their high levels of education. Statistics Canada released two recent reports showing the new long-term trend of increasing low-income earners among immigrants.
Researchers found that the "rate of improvement for recent immigrants has not brought them back in line with the economic fortunes of their predecessors."
Another recent research paper concludes that the return on a year of foreign work experience is only about a third of what Canadian-based experience provides in terms of higher earnings.
Prof. Reitz believes that the competition is stiffer now for immigrants, in part because their native-born counterparts are better educated than they were a generation ago.
"Canada now has its own intelligentsia. Our method of selection will only work if employers recognize a foreign education."
The problem is complex because while the federal government sets immigration policy, the provinces are in charge of the newcomers. "There is acknowledgment about the need for collaboration," Prof. Reitz said.
"But at the end of the day there is nobody in charge of implementing the solution."
Those who study immigration believe it is time to retool the selection system to ensure human capital is not wasted. Recruitment should be flexible so the country obtains the workers it needs and highly qualified people are not wasting their skills -- or giving up and heading south.
Ottawa knows the immigration system is flawed.
"We need to have a national immigration framework," a senior immigration official said. "How do we build a system that is more responsive to labour-market needs that will bring a healthy flow of professionals, as well as trades people?
"The answer is work with the provinces and maybe make the temporary-worker program more responsive to labour market needs."
Last month, a government roundtable began crisscrossing the country to canvass the public for solutions.
"The committee would like to see a process in place whereby immigrants will be able to obtain the Canadian equivalency for their professional and trade credentials," notes a release from the House of Commons immigration committee.
As the government brainstorms, frustrated immigrants are voting with their feet.
Don DeVoretz, an immigration economist at Simon Fraser University, found that as many as a third of all immigrants leave Canada, and that 20 per cent of recently arrived immigrants from China are returning to their homeland or moving to a third country.
"We're doing an awful job," he said. "That's because of the typical Canadian problem: The provinces control the licensing and the feds control immigration, and they don't talk to one another."
Immigrants' credentials should be assessed before they arrive to give them a realistic sense of what their future holds, he said.
Like Dr. Yalavarthy, about 20 per cent of the foreign-trained doctors registered with the Association of International Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, or AIPSO, are applying for medical-residency positions in the United States.
There, the spots available exceed the number of U.S. medical students.
Joan Atlin, executive director of AIPSO, said many foreign-trained doctors stay in Canada just long enough to exhaust their life savings trying to requalify.
"They are in an incredibly difficult position, and many question why they came here."
Members of this new underclass feel betrayed.
Abu Yakub left his three-storey family home and prestigious position at the Bangladesh Association for Aged and Institute of Geriatric Medicine in 2001 and immigrated to Canada with his wife and three children.
Despite passing his medical-evaluating exams here, he has been unable to obtain a residency position in Canada. He has been forced to take a $10-an-hour job as a personal-care assistant, helping patients wash and use the toilet.
"I have spent $15,000 on courses and exams here. Actually, my life is worse off here. My children are not accustomed to living in such hardship. I feel I have so much expertise and experience in family medicine. I would go anywhere in Canada. I wonder if I should give up and go home."
He knows of five colleagues who have accepted medical-residency positions in the United States.
Cognizant of the looming physician shortage, the Ontario government recently increased the number of residency positions for international medical graduates to 200 a year from 75. At this rate, it still will take 10 years to put half of the foreign-trained doctors in the province back to work.
"I can understand there is a frustration for people who arrive in Ontario and expect to sail into practice.
"There is a bottleneck. The schools can only train so many people at one time," said Brad Sinclair, executive director of IMG-Ontario, set up to oversee the program for foreign doctors.
Mr. Sinclair pointed out that the physician shortage is a complex problem that relates not only to licensing foreign doctors but to remuneration of all doctors, regulatory policies and how long and where physicians practise.
The immigration official in Ottawa conceded that to have good immigration policy, "good poetry and good plumbing" is needed. The government has tinkered with the plumbing.
Only poetry -- in the form of legislative change -- can save the system.
Skilled workers point system
Applicants must obtain 67 points to be admitted to Canada.
Education (maximum of 25 points)
A varying scale from top marks for master's degrees or higher, to five for completing secondary school
Language proficiency (maximum of 24 points)
Up to 16 points for fluency in first official language
Eight more for the second official language
Experience (maximum of 21 points)
A range, from top marks for four years of experience in a highly skilled occupation to 15 points for one year
Age (maximum of 10 points)
Top marks for people 21 to 49; two points less for each year over 49 or under 21
Arranged employment (maximum of 10 points)
Maximum points for having arranged employment in Canada
Adaptability (maximum of 10 points)
Five points for full-time job experience in Canada
Five points for having studied full-time in Canada
Five points for having close relative in Canada
Three to five points for a spouse who has graduated with a university degree
Maximum score: 100
Citizenship and Immigration Canada website:
www.cic.gc.ca/english/skilled/qual-1.htmlSource: Citizenship and Immigration Canada