Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Philippines now Canada’s top source of immigrants

She just turned 9Image by DaDaAce via Flickr
Michael Villanueva, a 36-year-old Philippines-trained engineer, arrived in Winnipeg a year ago under the provincial nominee program. He works the night shift as a maintenance man at a Winnipeg bread plant, then spends his days in a college course for electricians. He said he knew that emigrating might mean stepping down a rung professionally, but he’s still frustrated. He hopes to take a Canadian engineer’s certification exam once his English skills improve.
The connection to the Roman Catholic church – about 85 per cent of migrants are Catholic – has also been a unifying force for the community, which has simultaneously rejuvenated shrinking congregations. Outside of church, Filipino-Canadians have formed more than 1,000 ethnic associations organized around work, sports or other interests.
Having such robust community networks may be one reason Filipinos don’t tend to concentrate in neighbourhood enclaves, according to Prof. Laquian. Also, the nature of the caregiver program, which places migrants in peoples’ homes, may play a role in the community’s geographic dispersal.
In recent years, the education level of caregivers accepted as immigrants has skyrocketed. Philip Kelly, a York University geographer, said the proportion of caregivers with a university degree has risen to 63 per cent in 2009 from 5 per cent in 1993, making it an even better educated group than the skilled-worker class.
But as the human capital of newcomers has jumped, concerns have intensified about the fate of the children of previous waves. Prof. Kelly said research shows their outcomes are not what one would expect.
“In terms of statistical evidence, it looks like the story is not a happy one. Outcomes for Filipino youth are often quite poor, high levels of high-school dropouts and low levels of university graduation,” Prof. Kelly said. In Toronto, 37 per cent of first-generation Filipinos have a university degree, but that number dips to 24 per cent in the second generation, he said.
Some experts blame the struggles of the next generation on the family dislocation caused by the caregiver program. Stories of women exploited in Canada and families damaged by years of separation have surfaced more frequently in recent years.
For women such as Salve Fungo, the caregiver program is just a way-station on the path to a better life. A computer technician in the Philippines, Ms. Fungo, 36, moved to Canada in 2007. After a little more than two years caring for an elderly woman, she’s re-training as an IT specialist and embarking on the path to citizenship.
She describes it as an attractive proposition: A few years of sacrifice for life in a stable country with free health care and a salary that will allow her to send relatively vast sums home. She already paid her brother’s way through college.
“Most of my friends wanted to come here,” she said. “It’s the ‘in’ thing in the Philippines to come to Canada.”