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Why immigrants end up as taxi drivers

Many cab drivers were engineers, doctors and lawyers

3 min read
caption Cabs in front of Scotia Square.
Yu Zhang

Many taxi drivers in the Halifax Regional Municipality are well-educated immigrants from other countries, so taking a service job was a hard choice for many of them.

Casino Taxi says there are 255 immigrant taxi drivers working for them in Halifax, which is 60 per cent of its total number of drivers.

A study from 2012 found that 50.1 per cent of taxi drivers in Canada were immigrants. The study, which looked at census data from 2006, also found that 53 per cent of immigrant taxi drivers had post-secondary education. There was no specific data for Halifax.

caption A taxi driver waits for customers.
Yu Zhang

Many taxi drivers were engineers, lawyers and doctors in their home country, but couldn’t find jobs in their field in Canada or didn’t meet the regulations.

caption Cabs in front of Scotia Square.
Yu Zhang

Javad Hashemi used to be a lawyer in Iran. He says he ended up driving a taxi for one main reason: it’s “hard to find a job.”

Another driver, S.H., has lived in Canada since 2001. Before that, he had been an electronic engineer for more than 15 years in Egypt. He didn’t want to give his full name because he thinks that it is a shame for him to be a taxi driver and not an engineer in Canada.

“I never expected that I would be a taxi driver in Halifax,” S.H. said. “It is very hard for us to find other jobs in Canada; I don’t know if it is because of racism or language.”

Haidar Abbas, a barber from Iraq, had to take a job as a taxi driver in order to support himself.

“You have to start from easier jobs which don’t need good English,” he said, adding that while it’s easier in a sense, driving a taxi is still a lot of work.

“Actually, it is even not easy to be a taxi driver; to make a living, you have to work 70 to 80 hours a week.”

caption Abbas driving his car.
Yu Zhang

According to the Halifax Regional Municipality Taxi and Limousine Bylaw, the total number of cabs in HRM can’t exceed 1,000. Taxi drivers need to pay nearly $2,000 in fees, including $400 for renting a roof light.

Some immigrant associations are trying to help well-educated immigrants find other work.

“We can connect them with employers, mentors, unpaid work placements, bridging programs and training opportunities,” said Nabiha Atallah, manager of Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS). “For those in regulated professions, we can also provide information and contacts, bridging programs and exam preparation.”

Hashemi said many immigrants need income right away to support their families, so they can’t always take a program or prepare for an exam.

“If I want to find other jobs, I have to spend a couple years on school first,” he said.

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