“Chetta, I have decided to migrate to Canada. I heard it is difficult to get a good job there. How can I get a high-paying job in Canada?”
I get a lot of questions on the prospects of landing “white collar” jobs in Canada or the other Anglosphere countries (UK, Australia, New Zealand).
A migration consultant once told me that after Punjab, it was the three Central Travancore districts of Kerala from where the Canadian immigration system receives its largest number of applications from. As a resident of one of those districts, I definitely can say that this is no exaggeration at all. I belong to an age group (born 1979-1989, or top Millennial) and a demographic (middle-to upper middle class English-proficient professional degree holder) which has seen nearly everyone migrated out of the state and country. Nearly no one among those who I grew up with reside in the country anymore. I see very few youngsters or young families around here anymore as well. Most of the country still thinks that young people from Kerala still go to other states in India or cities like Bangalore, etc. looking for jobs, or, of course to the Gulf countries, but that has long since ended. For most youngsters, even the Gulf is now unappealing. Everyone wants to move to CANZUK or the USA. So people must think the reason I am still stuck here is probably because I couldn’t make it “out” for some reason (which is true), and who better to ask about the pitfalls of a system and the risk of failures than someone who has experienced it? So, what is the motivation here, and what is the answer to the Canada question?
Canada currently offers the best (and in most cases, only) liberal, open, positive, merit-based migration program in the world today. Nearly anyone is eligible to participate in it without having to pay and/or invest large amounts of money or having to spend years (or decades) waiting for residency and/or having to face restrictions and hurdles based on nationality, occupation, etc. For this reason, Canada’s “open to all” system looks very attractive to the average guy or girl with no special skills and looking to migrate out to a “developed” country. However, many people seem to misread what this migration is actually about, what it means and what it is intended to. Let us try to understand this.
It is well-known that many highly-educated people end up doing doing what you call “survival jobs” for several years in their adopted countries before they can land a job that would be considered “respectable” in their original countries of residence. For instance, a software engineer would expect to land a software engineering job in Canada but very rarely does, despite being highly qualified and experienced. This is leading to much bitterness and all the anxiety about people “landing” a similar job in Canada. There is no need to, because that is part of the package. People get frustrated because of they don’t realise what they are getting into, and how things actually work.
What is the Canadian Immigration System?
People trying to migrate to Canada often do not even understand why their immigration system exists and why it is built the way it is in the first place. A lot of migrants have this romantic notion about Canada being a magical realm of compassion and humanity, a “liberal paradise” and haven for those who want to start a new life, a beacon of light in these dark times, awash with opportunities that are low hanging fruits just waiting to be plucked. Know what? Canada, or any other country or the Universe in general, owes nothing to anyone. Contrary to popular perception, Canada has not taken it upon itself to provide “great lives” to the luckless middle classes of the middle world. The bitterness of not being able to land a high-paying job and having to start at the bottom comes from an entitlement mentality that again, arises out of the ignorance about what the Canadian immigration policy aims to achieve.
Canada’s immigration policy is one of the most brilliantly thought-through, designed, established and executed marketing plans in the modern world, in scale, in reach, in ROI and of course, in fulfilling its objectives. It works wonderfully well in that aspect. You just have to understand that.
Canada is massive. It is the second largest country in the world, half the size of Russia and twice the size of India. But for its size, it has a population only as much as of Poland or Iraq or, well, Kerala. Most of the country is empty of people, cold (very cold), and uninhabitable, making it among the top 10 sparely populated countries in the world. Most of its population is also rapidly aging. There is no way Canada can sustain its industrial output to maintain its highly developed nation status with the 10th highest GDP in the world (along with its world-renowned (free) education, medical and welfare systems) with its natural population growth (or lack of it). So, Canada needs more people, specifically young people of working age to keep the economic machine going, but unfortunately there aren’t enough baby Canadians popping out to maintain even replacement population levels. Hence the immigration program.
Consider the Canadian immigration program the world’s largest recruitment drive for new Canadian citizens. The aim is to replenish the nation’s pool of human resources with the ideal citizen who is young and working-age (under 30), smart, active, healthy, decent, well-educated, proficient in English (or French for Quebec) with a fully verifiable life history free of criminal records, and is actually well-off in their home country (provable access to funds to survive in Canada for atleast six months) and their young families. One could say, the best of the average. Anyone who does not qualify is strictly not welcome. Every application is scrutinised and only those who satisfy these conditions will be issued an invitation. The number of openings are carefully calculated every year to plug the gap between seniors leaving the workforce and young people entering it. Its that simple.
If Canada deems to you/your (young) family to confirm to their requirements, you will be invited to go and live in the country and get naturalised. The only non-negotiable condition is that migrants should integrate and conform with the Canadian value system with little fuss. The Canadian immigration system is not to fill open job positions in Canadian companies.
“At its core, immigration is about people coming together to build a stronger country, which is what we’ve seen throughout our history.”Marco Mendicino, Canadian Immigration minister
The minister makes it loud and clear. It requires people to build the country. You are being offered a job of being an upstanding, law-abiding, tax-paying Canadian resident. You are not entitled to your fortune (but you are welcome to build it). As far as the country is concerned, they have given you the job, and the “tools” you use to “do” your job including how you will support yourself with a job and so on is entirely up to you. You have to find it yourself. A job, especially one at the same level you were back at home, is unfortunately not part of the package. Those who correctly understand the immigration system will not expect to, too. There is really no sense in immigrants to Canada (or any other country) complaining about the local job scenario. Locals have to be given precedence everywhere, that is only commonsense. You wouldn’t want public sentiment to turn against the immigration program, do you?
There is a reason why Canada migration is so popular among the young, educated middle class population despite the talks about job security. Most of us in this demographic were bought up schooled in the principles of western philosophy, to expect the world to be a just, fair and equitable place where things just work and we do not have to struggle for our fair share should we “work hard” enough for it. Hence, we for most, act all “decent”, “nice” and “well-mannered”, with progressive thoughts and expectation of things getting better. But then we realise that this average Indian society is anything but all this. When your surroundings do not match the wavelengths of your lines of thought and perception, you crave to be in a place that does. Canada does. And it seems to be working. An entire generation of Malayalees (mine) are now Canadians.
Middle class migration can be broadly classified into two types: those who migrate to enhance their jobs and careers (think H1B, skilled occupations, medical) and those who migrate for migration itself, primarily for a better life overall. Canada migration falls under the latter. The question you asked me at the beginning was not if you should migrate or not. You have already made that decision, now they need to know the secondary details. You are moving to Canada because you want to migrate, to live in a “developed” country with all the perks, and not for the sake of your career. To be very honest if you valued your career you would have stayed in India, there is no better place right now. Canada does not recognise your degrees or your work experience and to build your career there (or any place you migrate to), you need to begin at the starting line again. You do remember how it was when you landed in Bangalore/any other Indian city after graduation, young, inexperienced and with no idea what to do? Consider Canada to be that all over again.
I repeat, the Canadian immigration program is not a guarantee that you will land a job and that you will “make it”. You will not become rich by migrating to Canada. Actually, initially it will be the other way around, you might even have to requisition funds from back home to survive there. The big Canadian cities are among the most expensive in the world and you will have to live a really threadbare existence to save/send money out. It will only be after many, many years will your financial status will stabilise. And even then, it would do you much better to invest for yourselves in Canada than back “home”, even an entire life’s savings will not get you enough to buy a house in Toronto. You will hardly have anything left over to send back. This is because the times have changed.
Migration is no longer a means to get rich
Indians in general still tend to think migration ostensibly as a way to get rich. The image of the loaded NRI with their houses, cars, land holdings, businesses and cash balances has always made “going abroad” the favoured way to “make it in life“. A lot of people believe migration to Canada to work out the same way, like going to the Middle East as an expatriate (“make some money abroad and come back“). Unfortunately, it does not work that way anymore. Among most things in the world today, the classic, traditional meaning of “migration” is also changing. Many nations are not happy with residents sending all their money out instead of enriching local economies, and are creating systems that try to keep it in the country (think VAT in the Middle East). Canada is not interested in making you rich.
In fact, what “rich” means to a Canadian is very different from what it would mean to someone from India. Clean air, water and food, and a just system and society would what a Canadian consider to be “rich”, and not maids and cooks and drivers. In fact, many new-generation immigrants are realising this and has become what they are aspiring to. They do not intend to return to India. They do not plan to build acres of land and build massive McMansions in which they will never live. They want a quite life with no drama and let their children grow up as good Canadians. You are investing in yourselves, in your and your family’s futures by migrating to live in a new country, as a new person, for a new identity by contributing to that country and helping it grow. If you are a good Canadian you will be rewarded with life in one of the cleanest, most progressive, rational and just societies in the world and if you are contended with it, just enough money to live an ordinary life. Even when they had roaring careers back home.
Immigration is the equivalent of pressing the “reset” button on your life. You start afresh as a new, blank installation on a new planet that works on completely different rules and has very different ideas on how society should work and how you are expected to fit in. Everything you had built and amassed in your life that far – your degrees, your work experience, even your possessions – cease to even exist in your new life. Your existing viewpoints, principles and thought processes will not be welcomed unless they conform with Canadian values. The secret for landing a job or generally being successful in Canada is to convince the system that you are at par with any Canadian in “Canadianness” and completely conform to their value systems. This might sound harsh, but you need to cease being who you were. At least externally, cut your mind off from the moorings of your previous life and unlearn and relearn all your beliefs and values. The way to being a successful migrant is to completely integrate into the host society as soon and as fast as you can. Once you board that plane out of India, you are on your way to become a Canadian. Try to be good at that job. You do not have to fret about our “job”, you will eventually get there.
Do you now realise what they mean by “Canadian Experience”? It has got nothing to do with the number of years you worked in Canada, but rather with “the experience in being Canadian“, with respect to your mindsets and viewpoints. You are in Canada because they deemed you good at being a Canadian, and if you are that, you will be fine. A pointer: respect dignity of labour. I know we have no such concept in India, but if you look down upon “survival jobs” and complain about “menial jobs” it will show you have no “Canadian Experience” and will be treated accordingly. Be proud of it instead and showcase what you learned.
“Should I move to Canada?”
I don’t know. Before asking me, you should know what you want. Just remember you are saying goodbye to your life as you knew it until then. You will not visit “home” even once a couple of years, as the flight(s) will themselves take 24-36 hours and are horrendously and prohibitively expensive especially for a family with kids. You will never be able stay for more than a month (who will give you leave?), your children will hate coming with you and how much ever you try, they will grow up as Canadians who will know little to nothing about the culture and values of your childhood. Those places and surroundings you grew up in will become unrecognisable and will no longer belong to you, and that notion of “home” will slowly fade away as you get older, relegating those times and places to the far corners of your memories. Instead you get to live a comfortable life in one of the best countries in the world in all parameters (except the cold). Move for your and your children’s future who will grow up Canadian with all its benefits. If you were to look at a swashbuckling career and to make a lot of money and fame, and will terribly miss your “home” and the way you grew up, well, it is again up to you. Good luck.