When Michael’s son got a $70,000 job offer from one of the Canada’s largest accounting firms, he was thrilled. Michael, a friend of mine who came to Canada with his son a decade ago, gave up a decent career in China and has worked as a hard labour in Toronto to support his family and his teenaged son. Michaels’ immigrant journey has highlighted parental sacrifice for the future of their children.
Such a dazzling job would delight any parent, and I expected Michael to show signs of relief that his financial burden had leveled off. But his reaction to the big news has surprised me as he expressed his deep gratitude to the fairness and equality in Canada:
“It is really fair in Canada!” he said.
Canada’s multiculturalism and value of diversity has paved the way for a level playing field in its job market. Regardless of where you are from and what you look like, and regardless of your cultural backgrounds and religious beliefs, you are provided with relatively equal opportunities in the society to compete and succeed.
Social mobility exists in a more equal society. In Canada, school provides equal and adequate resources to support the children from families in all walks of life – from professionals to unemployed, and from the wealthy to the poor. With equal opportunities in education, children of low-income families can climb up social ladder and break into middle class. Sons and daughters of parents who toil in factories or restaurants, and who are taking barrage of odd jobs to make ends meet, can attain professional outcomes that leap far beyond their parents. They can enjoy promising careers and become lawyers, doctors, accountants and entrepreneurs. They can make decent salaries.
Studies show that second generation of Chinese Canadians are doing extremely well in Canada. Not only are they more successful than their parent generation, but also fair better than average Canadians.
In terms of social mobility, China is a totally different ballgame. According to a recent study on internship programs in China, one’s family background has a profound impact on their children’s career prospects and the financial wellbeing. Decent career such as a job in a bank always goes to those with family social status or connections. It is very difficult for those humbly born to advance in a society or to rise above their class. Lack of social mobility, those fighting with fate always ends up with dashed China Dream.
The study reported three interns who were competing for the coveted bank positions. They were with different family backgrounds –ranging from high ranking official to entrepreneur to rural peasant. The best job candidate was chosen based on the internship review. But according to the study, the reviews were largely affected by the parents’ power and position and their efforts in bribing the supervisor and the decision maker. Unsurprisingly, the son of the most powerful parents won the competition and got the job offer.
Michael, who was proud of his son’s accomplishment, told me that his son’s job offer has put an end of a his family’s decade- long debate over whether they had made the right choice to immigrate to Canada.
“It is a job offer that I could hardly dream of in China…. Apparently, I’ve made the right choice to come to Canada” said Michael, with a wide smile on his face.
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