You get what you pay for

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Pradip Rodrigues

In recent years there has been a rise in the number of South Asian handymen and that is a good thing, except that anecdotal evidence suggests that a large number of them are unprofessional and their work can be described as shoddy, but because they offer their services at rock bottom prices, South Asian homeowners are willing to overlook poor workmanship until their work starts to fall apart. They often end up outbidding other Canadian handyman by hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Last year a South Asian I met at a get-together was boasting about how cheaply he got his bathroom. Recently I heard he was looking for a reputed contractor to fix his bathroom which had developed mold and had some leaks.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. South Asians are notorious when it comes to undercutting the competition. But is that a good thing when workmanship is poor and shoddy?

It has been done before in other fields with terrible consequences. Years ago, before South Asians became a dominant force in the trucking industry, truck drivers made a very good living. It is not that truck drivers don’t make a good living today, but they just have to work longer hours to make the same amount because of the competition. Many truck drivers will tell you that they are paid lower than the going rate and so have to work long hours which can often have devastating consequences on the roads. Today few non South Asians bother to consider becoming truck drivers because wages have been driven down so much and it is simply not worth the effort.

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Years ago I was talking with a Caucasian truck driver who complained that the ‘Indian’ truck driver who was part of his team was getting more assignments than him not because the ‘Indian’ was better but because he was willing to do the same job for less money and make deliveries even if it meant making a delivery at short notice. He was available 24-7, something this Caucasian truck driver was not willing to do. “I don’t mind working hard all week, but on weekends, I like to spend time knocking back a few beers and hanging with my family and friends,” he said. How could he or for that matter any Canadian trucker hope to compete with a hungry South Asian who is willing to go that extra mile literally and otherwise? To compete with that, the Caucasian truck driver would have to compromise his own standard of living and quality of life.

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So, is it fair to say that large-scale immigration, especially those with low skills actually brings down wages and the quality of life for low and middle-class Canadians in general?

As recently as 2015, the US senator and presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders said in an interview: “What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy,” Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don’t believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country.”

As of 2018, there were more than 600,000 international study permit holders. It is safe to say that a majority of them have come here with the intention of becoming permanent residents. Thousands of ‘international students’ across Canada are toiling for less than the minimum wage in hundreds of establishments. Many employers are now addicted to cheap labor. After all, why pay even minimum wage when you can get employees willing to work for $7 to $10?

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And we South Asian immigrants are in part responsible for bringing down the standard of living and depressing wages in more and more fields. Whether it is the inexperienced realtor wearing a bad suit who drops his fees and provides poor service, or the contractor doing a shoddy job of finishing a basement apartment, we are responsible for depressing wages that in time discourages good young people with passion from getting into certain fields. This is how businesses and Canadians inadvertently end up creating a dependence on cheap foreign labour in more and more professions.

Our love for cheap restaurant food for example means restaurateurs are forced to exploit their staff and make them work like slaves. By supporting cheap labor and wrestling contractors to bring down their fees is the reason we see such poor workmanship in so many homes and exploitation of workers. Everything ends up having a third-world feel, look and standard. -CINEWS

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