Over-educated immigrant cabbies plying Canadian streets, federal study finds

Steve Mertl
Daily Brew
May 12, 2012

It's become a stereotype and a Hollywood movie cliche: Behind the wheel of most cabs sits an immigrant with a doctorate or a medical degree.

It turns out that, as with any stereotype, it has more than a grain of truth.

An unpublished study commissioned by the federal Department of Citizenship and Immigration built a profile of who was behind the wheels of cabs on Canadian streets.

The special study, entitled "Who Drives a Taxi in Canada," was obtained under Access to Information legislation by Toronto immigration lawyer Richard Kurland. It surveyed more than 50,000 cabbies based on income tax forms.

The study found more than 200 taxi drivers, mostly from the Toronto area, had been doctors in their home countries, the Toronto Sun reported.

It also turned up another 55 Canadian-born cabbies who were doctors or PhDs.

Overall, one out of every two drivers are immigrants and one in three were born in India or Pakistan, according to the survey.

Immigrant drivers listed business and management as their top field of study, while Canadian-born cabbies listed architecture and related fields.

Some 14 per cent of immigrant drivers had bachelor's degrees, compared with four per cent of Canadian-born drivers. More than five per cent had master's degrees, compared with one per cent for their Canadian-born counterparts.

Besides India and Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Haiti and the United States are the countries where most educated cabbies come from.

Cab-company operators say immigrants make good employees and are prepared to sacrifice themselves for their families, the Sun reported.

Kurland said the number of well-educated immigrant cabbies surprised him.

"This confirms the urban myth that there are cab drivers who were doctors at home," he told the Sun.

The Globe and Mail, editorializing on the study, called the results "a dramatic loss of economic potential," which make the federal government's planned changes to immigration criteria even more important.

"These newcomers can contribute much more to Canada's productivity if their education and job experience can be converted into the Canadian job market," the Globe opined.

"Newcomers' difficulties in the job market are not a reflection of their own lack of education, but of bureaucratic bottlenecks, discrimination, gatekeeping by professions, and language difficulty. Everyone benefits if overqualified immigrant drivers can get out of their cars."