LIFE IN CANADA

Most of the Indians want to live a Life in Canada. But it is not everyone’s cup of tea. For getting a closer picture of the grass on the other side, please Read below:

I am an Indian, an IIT/IIM graduate and have recently made a move to Canada. I will be starting to work for a bank. I do regret some parts of it but not fully. I will put my perspective forward based on my personal priorities.

Money

Prior to moving to Canada, I worked for top banks in global locations for around 10 years so hopefully I can make a fair comparison. If you are a high flyer in your own country possibly you would be making more money at home than in Canada as the wages are quite low in this country. Super-high paying jobs even for niche skills are quite unheard of. If you make more than 100K CAD in Canada, you will possibly fall into top 5% earners in the country.

One of other hand if you are a blue collared worker in your home country and belong to a lower strata of society, in that case Canada definitely open doors for you to economic mobility. Minimum wage in Canada is around 14 CAD per hour and you probably would be making much more than what you make back in India or your home country. Further, your workplace environment would be much more dignified and you would feel more respected.

Money-wise, Canada is relatively beneficial only if you are a semi-skilled worker. For a skilled worker, the demand and pay is much higher in other parts of the developed world.

Hiring

Hiring can be pretty frustrating for new immigrants. I went through the illogical and bureaucratic hiring process followed in Canada, which at first came as a shock. Hiring in India generally is more meritocratic, quick and less frustrating. Consultants will be chasing you in India if you an IIT/IIM grad but in Canada you will need to call/meet people and job consultants. Your non-Canadian experience and education matter least, what matters is who knows you. It becomes really easy if you know someone at a key position very well. So you might need to network a lot before landing the first job.

“Canadian Experience” generally is a way of discrimination (at times subtle form of racism as well). The hiring managers are aware that you a recent migrant hence they use it for their own advantage. They will try to hire you for much lesser, or at a junior position and locals do get a preference. But at times “Canadian experience” is also a genuine requirement when it is used as a polite way of filtering out candidates who don’t possess the necessary soft skills required to do the job. I personally have noticed many Indian immigrants possessing the required hard skills but they lack the soft skills or have a general apathy towards the local culture. I know this situation is natural for a new immigrant but that’s how things work here.

The tech job market especially the analytics/data science is pretty hot in Toronto but if you are from core banking (say asset management, investment banking or wealth management), sales/marketing, consulting or operations, then you will most likely face a much harder time finding the right job here.

Long period of unemployment also means you need to have substantial savings in order to support yourself and the family.

Family Life

I feel the next generation reaps the maximum benefits of immigration here as they will have a Canadian passport, free access to basic health, education and a safe environment. Born and raised in Canada, they wont face the same trauma integrating with a foreign society that you might face.

The work life balance is pretty amazing in Canada with most of the jobs not requiring more than 8 hours per day. A lot of companies also offer the flexibility to work from home for few days in a month. So, you do get enough time to spend with your family or for yourself. However, commutes in Toronto area can be long if you live in suburbs like Brampton and work in downtown.

There also a lot of places to explore around in summer .

Quality of life

This was one of the most important criterion for me to make an informed move to Canada. Canadian economy is a capitalistic-socialistic economy which is a mix somewhere between Europe and USA. Canada offers free school education, basic health, clean environment and is reasonably secure compared to USA and other developing countries.

Given my job profile, my options for work-locations in India were NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Each of them suffers from their own basic problems, be it pollution, traffic, high rents, safety, long commute or lack of clean water. Moreover, these over-crowded cities have swelled beyond imaginations so I don’t think you can enjoy a good quality of life here, no matter how much you earn.

Cost of living

The cost of living is increasing getting higher in Canada due to rising real estate costs and oligopolistic economy. With thousands of immigrants pouring in every week, the cost will be getting higher only. If you earn 100k CAD per year in GTA, you can enjoy a decent living, can live in a good house in suburbs, afford couple of holidays each year, maintain a good car but you wont be able to save a lot. So, there is a big trade-off between quality of life vs savings.

As I mentioned before, 100K is on a higher side of salaries so most likely both partners have to work to make that much.

Access to USA

With H1b increasingly becoming a pain-point, the option of working on a TN visa in US comes as an additional perk after receiving a Canadian passport. Although Canadian economy is fully linked with US economy but more often than not, you get paid much higher (especially true for techies) if you move south of the border.

Winters

Canadian winters are a drag for someone moving here from warmer climates. Usually first winters are the hardest but you quickly get used to it. Initially, you need to invest a good amount of money into warm clothing, winter shoes and tyres, and it makes life much easier. Interiors and cars are generally well heated and warm but your outdoor activities will be severely limited.

To summarize, CIC definitely has done a great job in over-selling the Canadian immigration but Canada being a small economy doesn’t have adequate and appropriate jobs for so many skilled immigrants. However, there are a lot of worker and trade jobs. Immigrating here requires a lot of sacrifice and fruits of it would be mostly enjoyed by the future generations.

So, don’t get carried away by the rosy picture painted everywhere. Talk to as many people as you can and based on your personal priorities, make a very informed decision.

success-strategy

I would like to elaborate few more aspects around job market as majority of the discussions are around it. I would tailor my answer specifically for techies/bankers/managers as per my first hand experience.

  1. Canadian experience: A lot of people have this confusion around what is Canadian experience and why they ask for it. To put it straight, people in Canada still haven’t stomached the fact that immigrants can come here, do white-collared jobs with them or be their boss. So, most of the times it used as a way to discriminate immigrants. The intention is either not to hire you at all or offer you a lower salary/designation compared to what you deserve. Job market in most parts of the world is much more competitive, meritocratic and technologically ahead of Canada, so it laughable when they don’t value foreign experience. However, at times they want to genuinely indicate that you don’t possess the necessary soft skills for the job.
  2. Skills: The market in Canada focuses more on soft skills (being extrovert, fluent English not too accented, presentable, likable, engaging, western sense of humor) rather than the hard skills. If you haven’t lived in the western world for long, most likely you wouldn’t score high on these skills. Hard skills are given less importance. As a consequence you can survive and grow even though you are below average but likable. The reason why it is possible is because Canadian companies are not very competitive themselves, given the small size and oligopolistic nature of their economy. For instance, Canada only has 5 big banks and you will be charged decent amount of money even to maintain a bank account. Banks collude and increase their service charges in tandem so none of them has any incentive to be better than others. To give you another example, 90% of Canada’s telecom is controlled by 3 companies- Bell, Rogers, Telus and you will pay a fortune (close to 60 CAD per month) for a minimal mobile plan.
  3. Seniority: Securing a deserving salary or position is highly difficult for the first job. The most weird part is the general mentality here to expect immigrants to start afresh. I have seen example of software engineers having more than 12 years of experience offered to join at junior-most (graduate-level) positions. You will be extremely lucky if you can get a well-deserved position for the first job. The more experienced you are, the more compromise you make.
  4. Salary: As I have already discussed, general level of salaries in Canada is quite low. Its even lower than India (even with direct fx conversion) for high paying job profiles such as in investment baking/asset management/Sales/Marketing/Niche tech/Big Data/ML/AI. Notwithstanding, to secure a deserving salary in your first job is as difficult. However, one can cover it up later if they are competitive and are open to hop jobs.
  5. Demand/Supply: The AI/ML/Big Data/Data science are currently hot in Toronto. Software engineers with niche skills also have decent demand. There is a lot of supply of applicants as well due to inflow of immigrants and because almost every Canadian university is running below-par certification courses in ML/AI/Big Data/analytics. Same story for financial operations/accounting, lot of jobs as well as applicants at the same time however salaries are lower. Immigrants in the field of Marketing/Sales/General Management/Inv Banking/Wealth & Asset management/Operations/Consulting should be wary of Canada as these profile requires lot of soft skills and local connections.
  6. Connections: Most of the jobs arent advertised and filled internally or by reference. Connections come handy in this market. You can even secure a job completely unrelated to your profile, given you have the right connection. But most of the immigrants dont have many connections here hence that is a major disadvantage.

To conclude, job market for skilled (white-collared) immigrants is not very lucrative in general. Its relatively advantageous if you are just starting your career or you are average or below in your home country or not too ambitious. As a general rule of thumb, if you are making more than 20 lakhs per annum in India, I wouldn’t suggest you to rate career as a positive aspect, while deciding to immigrate to Canada.

In this edit, I have specifically focused on job market but of course there are other incentives to immigrate such as the quality of life and family. In the end, it really depends on every individual what they are looking for and what satisfies them.

Again, as a word of caution – you will find plenty of misinformation on internet, mostly by immigration agents, portraying everything about Canada in a good light, showing all pastures as green but in reality Canada is also bittersweet as any other nation. It has its own merits and demerits.

So, know you priorities, collect information and make an informed decision.

Ranvijay Singh

SOURCE

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