Displaying items by tag: minimum wage - New Canadian Media
New Canadian Media
Tuesday, 13 February 2018 10:07

Lost in the Wasteland of Survival Jobs

By: Nanyi Albuero in Toronto, ON

The rhythmic sound of embroidering machines surround Mariam Said Mobinullah as she expertly navigates her way around a sea of powerful equipment. She reaches for the box of buttons, clasps and hooks; attaching them to various garments in one fell swoop. With movements that have become all but muscle memory, she wastes no time stitching initials onto the assortment of robe bags. There are targets to be met.

However, in the midst of another eight-hour shift which pays minimum wage with no benefits, Mariam reflects on her disappointment. She admits this was not how she envisioned life in her adopted country. As a hand sewer in a tailoring factory in Toronto, her days now involve working with varieties of gowns, coats, shirts, pants and scarves. A far cry from her days as a teacher back in Kabul.

Looking to escape war-torn Afghanistan, Mobinullah moved to Canada with her family over five years ago. Her hope lies “in the good dreams I have for my children’s future” as the silver lining to her struggles.

She is not alone in finding difficulty as a new Canadian. The road to an immigrant realizing the “Canadian Dream” is fraught with roadblocks about one’s qualifications and whether employers will recognize them. Highly skilled professionals with university degrees in their native countries are often relegated to survival jobs and paid a minimum wage with no job stability in sight. Hence the stories about doctors driving cabs or engineers as security guards or delivering pizzas. And with that low income demographic comes the term “working poor”.

Is the initial difficulty experienced by new Canadians in finding a job in their line of work a rite of passage?

Deena Ladd, Coordinator at the Workers’ Action Centre in Toronto, reflects on this conundrum: “It’s no surprise.  So many people’s qualifications are not accepted coming into this country. Research studies have shown that getting these qualifications recognised and getting the equivalency of these qualifications is just insurmountable for so many people."

Ladd further observed that it can even be tough for newcomers who choose to go back to school because “how do you go back to school if you have to pay your bills?”

No Canadian Experience

This was the dilemma Mayurika Trivedi found herself in when she arrived in Canada from India in 1997. She proudly says “I’m not a newcomer. I came to Canada with my two sons.” However, her accounting and business administration degree did not land her a professional job but instead she started as a machine operator in a factory.

She was also subjected to that dreaded mantra: No Canadian experience.  Frustrated by the lack of information for new arrivals and not enough training resources, she had no choice but to work the night shift in an automotive factory. Later on she was transferred to the day shift.

Mayurika was forced to leave her job in 2010 when her husband fell ill. In spite of the hardships she is not giving up and plans on going back to school “to upgrade my education and help me in my career”. She hopes to one day be financially independent so she is able to fulfill her dreams.

Heartbreaking, as is the plight of 1.5 million women in Canada living on a low income. This is a fact of life which Mariam Said Mobinullah and Mayurika Trevidi face in a G7 nation.

While some immigrants have given up on the “Canadian Dream” and returned to their home countries, that option simply does not exist for many. Moving away from places that do not offer the same liberties or securities, a trip back could prove costly in the long run.

It can still be an uphill climb for many professional women who arrive in Canada fleeing war or persecution. There can be subtle yet systemic racism based on the colour of one’s skin, a foreign-sounding name or accent.

It is distressing that 28 per cent of visible minority women live in poverty; almost 70 per cent of part-time workers are women and 60 per cent of minimum-wage earners are female, according to the Canadian Women's Foundation. 

Dr. Izumi Sakamoto, of the University of Toronto, points to employers who knowingly or unknowingly are discriminating against immigrants by prioritizing "Canadian experience" over credentials that may have been obtained abroad. "When they show up to job interviews, they're told they don't have Canadian experience and can't be hired. Somehow your experience is inferior to that of a Canadian," she explained during an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

In 2013, the Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled the question of "Canadian experience", a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. However, as new Canadians continue to face this obstacle, it's clear that a more practical solution must be implemented. Sakamoto calls for more awareness as Canada looks to open its doors to more skilled immigrants. That it has become a code violation is good news, but remains small comfort for the thousands in Ontario mired in survival and precarious jobs. 


This piece is part of the "Ethnic Women as Active Participants in Ontario" series. Writers interested in participating are encouraged to join the NCM Collective for an opportunity.

Published in Economy
Thursday, 08 February 2018 19:49

Minimum Wage: Headstart for Newcomer Women

By: Summer Fanous in Toronto, ON

Prabhjeet Kaur was among the first victims of the rise in minimum wages in Ontario at the beginning of the year. She lost her restaurant job while the rest of the province idly debated the pros and cons of higher starting wages.

Immigrating to Canada with her family to pursue her education goals, Kaur admits she is somewhat shielded from real world expenses. She explains, “students don’t know what’s going on [at] a high level. They are giving and taking in the same way.”

Since then she has been able to find work with Walmart as a picker/driver for a little over minimum wage, but is firm in her belief that any benefits are overshadowed by increases in other expenses. 

The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017  legislation has increased the minimum wage in Ontario from $11.60 per hour to $14 per hour, effective January 1, 2018 and will be bumped up to $15 per hour at the same time next year. According to Bill 148, “It will be mandatory for employers to pay: casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees, who are doing substantially the same work as full-time/permanent employees, the same rate of pay as full-time/permanent employees."

The wage increase is especially important for single income earners and women with families to provide for. Based on a timeline produced by the Vanier Institute of the Family, two-thirds (66%) of part-time workers are women, a proportion that has not changed significantly over the past three decades. While the raise seems to offer an answer to many of the questions surrounding the Ontario workforce, the solution may not be as simple as it sounds.

Shaemin Ukani came to Canada from London in 1974, today she is the Director of Operations at Arrow Professionals, a company she co-founded over 10 years ago. As an employer, she realizes that the wage increase means the biggest expense on her books becomes staff salaries. She believes business owners will have a harder time balancing their budgets, and in turn, will hire fewer people or take on more work themselves.

Similarly, new graduates or less experienced workers may be shafted since more experienced workers who are on the hunt for a job could be hired to make the same, higher minimum wage. Other disadvantages to employers of the minimum wage increase include “staff reduction, overtime reduction, job elimination, automation, and benefit cuts,” according to Ukani. The cost of living will also rise to accommodate the wage increase, so gas, household items and groceries will go proportionately to make up the difference.

As employers take steps to protect their own profit margins, many minimum wage employees are seeing cuts in hours as well as available positions. 

Equal work, equal pay

However not everyone shares negative views about the policy change. Ronia Bellotti immigrated to Canada from Jerusalem in 1986 for a “better life.” Beginning minimum wage jobs as early as the age of 13, she has climbed the ranks to her current position as Superior Court Registrar for the Ministry of the Attorney General. While she worries about how small business owners would cope with having to pay employees more, Bellotti believes the wage increase, especially for immigrant women, is a “positive step forward.”

“Immigrants, single moms or minorities would highly benefit from a wage increase in their everyday life.  This may be especially beneficial to working families, as then both mothers and fathers would see a pay raise benefiting the family unit. I do think women make up a large portion of the minimum wage sector, while historically, men have received higher incomes for the same job women do,” Bellotti feels.

Data from 2005 seems to confirm this. Immigrant women of all ages were more likely to be living in a low-income situation than Canadian-born women. Among the immigrant girls and women in an economic family, 20 per cent lived under Statistics Canada's low income cut-off before tax, compared with 10 per cent of the Canadian-born girls and women. The incidence of low income among immigrant girls and women was also somewhat higher than among their male peers (19 per cent).

Fleeing an unsafe town in Pakistan, Huda Alvi and her family immigrated to Canada in the hopes of finding better career opportunities. Her career has evolved from starting her own recruitment company at age 25 to founding Workshops by Huda, an offline space that aims to empower, educate and inspire learning in a whole new way. Alvi notes people with “low skill levels generally have a hard time finding work. If the minimum wage rises, this will also cause companies to think twice about their hiring needs, which will impact jobs that women currently hold.”

Prior to getting used to the customs and workforce in Canada, many immigrant women seek to pick up job skills. On average, immigrants have lower employment rates and incomes than non-immigrants.  Even as wages are increased, many ethnic women will still be forced to take on precarious work to make ends meet. Those looking to better their current situations may have to look elsewhere in the form of enhanced personal or professional skills.

However, as employers prepare for the second salary bump upcoming in 2019, only time will tell how Ontario adjusts. 


This piece is part of the "Ethnic Women as Active Participants in Ontario" series. Writers interested in participating are encouraged to join the NCM Collective for an opportunity.

Published in Economy

by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver

During the 2015 election campaign, one issue remained imminent for many Canadians: how will the newly elected government improve the economy? But, a question less pondered, of interest to many immigrant communities is how will the government improve economic inequalities.

One economics professor from British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University recently pointed out which promises made by the major political parties in Canada made would lower inequality.

“Inequality is more about wealth than income,” professor Krishna Pendakur said during a public lecture in Burnaby earlier this month.

Wealth, he said, is money generated from stocks, bonds, etc., and income is based on labour.

Economic platforms

Pendakur said the Conservatives’ plan is vague when it comes to economic inequality  – more commonly referred to as the gap between the rich and the poor.

“They promise to grow the economy, to have a bigger pie, then a trickle-down effect,” he explained. “Whatever crumbles from this pie and falls down to the rest of the 99 per cent, that’s it.”

Pendakur said the Conservatives’ plan is vague when it comes to economic inequality.

Pendakur noted though that some trickle-down effect did happen with previous policies of low tax rates, low revenue and low public spending. “There was high skilled blue-collared incomes in Alberta while the party lasted.”

Looking to the Liberals and New Democrats, Pendakur said both parties promise to increase guaranteed income supplement, which is a good thing. The income supplement provides a monthly non-taxable benefit to Old Age Security recipients who have a low income and are living in Canada.

To get the supplement, the recipients must be legal residents in Canada and receiving the old age pension.

Addressing national inequality

Pendakur pointed out which policies each party promised would likely be most effective in addressing national inequality.

For the New Democratic Party (NDP), he said the two major ones are national subsidized childcare and national universal drug coverage. “Both are long term commitments and [Tom] Mulcair will need more than one election to see it through,” he commented.

"[F]or some, even if they’ve seen a doctor and the doctor has written the prescription, sometimes people can’t afford the treatment at the pharmacy. It’s the biggest cost to someone’s health.”

Pendakur said political parties are careful about what they can claim because there are certain jurisdictions which federal governments don’t have a lot of control over.

Health care is decided at the provincial level, so that is why the NDP chose pharmaceuticals, he said.

“It’s good because, for some, even if they’ve seen a doctor and the doctor has written the prescription, sometimes people can’t afford the treatment at the pharmacy. It’s the biggest cost to someone’s health.”

Minimal wage is also a provincial jurisdiction, Pendakur explained, which is why the NDP promised a minimum wage of $15 per hour for federal workers. “100,000 workers will be affected.”

Turning to the Liberals, he drew attention to the party’s promise to increase child benefits with lower implicit tax rates on them.

The party also said it would raise tax rates on personal income over $200,000 by four per cent and lower income tax rates for the middle class from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent.

Privileging particular demographics

During the Q-and-A session, an audience member asked Pendakur what he thought about the Conservative party’s income-splitting tax plan.

“Income splitting is awful,” Pendakur replied.

[Pendakur] said [income splitting] values two-parent, two-income families and ignores every other demographic in the country.

He said the plan values two-parent, two-income families and ignores every other demographic in the country. “Why is this particular demographic worth more than others?”

University of Fraser Valley student Anoop Tatlay agreed with him.

“I couldn’t pinpoint what it was about the [income-splitting tax] proposal that bothered me, but once he said it, it clicked,” stated Tatlay, who is a single mother. “I’d thought the same thing.”

Pendakur presented complex information in an engaging manner, said Tatlay. The newfound knowledge she gained motivated her to look more closely at the federal budget and public spending and try to understand it better.

As a Canadian citizen, the 37-year-old resident of Mission, B.C. said she plans to vote on Oct. 19.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Economy

 

If you think the vast majority of Canadians earning minimum wage are teenagers who live at home and work in entry-level jobs, think again. A...

Epoch Times

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Published in Economy
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 11:08

How the Globe Revived My Career

by Dennis Mathew (@mathewdennis in Toronto

Everyone has a story. Each time I share the story of my early days in Canada, I get the response, “That’s a miracle."

I was born and educated in India, and like many new immigrants, I moved to Canada with big dreams. With an MBA and a rising career in advertising working with international brands in Dubai, I was confident of making it big in Canada. After all, I had moved countries and lived in different continents before; succeeding in a new place was not a new thing. The prospect of starting from scratch and making it big excited me. It’s not necessarily a guy thing ... well, actually, yes, it is. It’s a guy thing. I was in for an adventure, for sure.

It was not long before my enthusiasm and options started to run out. Despite the headwinds I was facing, I sent my applications to every advertising agency in town. I started getting lots of mail over the next few weeks brimming with lovely politeness that all ended in, No. Many agencies didn’t even bother to write back because they figured we both just kind of knew.

With no luck from advertising agencies, I decided to spread the net wider. I thought the skills and experience I gained on the agency side would be an asset for any client. Unfortunately, most recruiters could not see beyond my lack of Canadian experience.

However, his expertise counts for nothing. Mr. Mathew has been to more than a dozen interviews, and is always told the same thing: "You must have Canadian experience," he said with a rueful laugh. excerpted from Globe and Mail: Immigrants battle chronic low income

My dream job in Canada seemed a distant possibility when, even after four months, I couldn’t get a decent break. Desperate to get back into the work force, I decided to take up survival jobs to stop the bleeding of my bank account. When I mentioned this to some of my closest friends, they looked at me like I was proposing to remove my own liver.

Graveyard shifts

Working the graveyard shifts on factory floors, however, turned out to be a bigger nightmare than I imagined.  While it helped pay the bills, tasks like scrubbing store signs at -5 degrees C, picking hot automotive parts from burning furnaces, carrying heavy boxes across warehouse floors, was definitely not my idea of work. While it taught me important lessons in humility and the dignity of labour, I began to question the value of my education, knowledge and experience.  There seemed no light at the end of this proverbial tunnel.

One day, a friend mentioned about a journalist who was writing an article on immigrants battling chronic low income. I was keen on sharing my version of the immigration story, and, at that point, needed a place to vent. When I spoke with Marina Jiménez, who was researching the article, I was bitter, angry and frustrated. Marina did an amazing job of weaving my story into her article in the Globe and Mail the next day (Jan. 31, 2007). My forlorn picture that accompanied the hard-copy version of the story seemed to accurately portray my plight.

"It is a criminal waste of my knowledge and experience," said Mr. Mathew, who plans to leave Canada by the summer if he doesn't land a job in his field. excerpted from Globe and Mail: Immigrants battle chronic low income

Dramatic difference

Things changed overnight. I started getting calls from recruiters and companies who were keen to explore what I could bring to the table. The big break came when one kind-hearted management consultant read the article and reached out to Marina. He mentioned that he had a few contacts in advertising agencies and could introduce me to his connections.

When I met Himal, who runs a management consultancy firm, I saw a living example of human generosity. Here was someone willing to go above and beyond for a complete stranger. He spent countless hours mentoring me. As luck would have it, Himal’s connections were the biggest and best agencies in town. I got to present my credentials to the CEO's and managing directors of the crème-de-la-crème of advertising agencies in Toronto.

As a result of one of these meetings, I got an amazing job at the Mecca of advertising agencies -- Ogilvy and Mather. Working on the IBM account, building award-winning integrated marketing campaigns like Smarter Planet and Watson-Jeopardy, with some of the best talent in town, was my dream coming true.

As Nicholas Sparks said in A Walk to Remember, I now believe, by the way, that miracles can happen.” 

Dennis Mathew is a Toronto-based marketing professional engaged in building cutting-edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions for marketers. With more than 15 years in advertising and digital marketing, he has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop award-winning social, mobile and digital marketing best practices.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

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Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

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The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

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