How migration wars impact Metro Vancouver’s high-tech sector

July 30, 2017

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Raza Mirza knows he could earn at least US$40,000 more a year south of the border.

The high-tech engineer, who was recruited to Vancouver from Pakistan in 2008, has watched many of his foreign-born colleagues grab their first high-tech jobs in Metro Vancouver.

But then, as soon as they can navigate the more difficult migration process into the U.S., many have moved to cities like San Francisco, Dallas and Seattle.

For a variety of reasons, Mirza is one of the foreign-born workers who intend to put down roots in Canada. He says he has “immensely benefited” from making the relatively easy immigration transition to B.C.

Mirza is one player in a complex global competition for high-tech talent, which has turned into a political and corporate tug of war.

It’s a battle that sometimes pits North American companies that seek foreign labour against homegrown Americans and Canadians who yearn for more access to computer training.

Metro Vancouver’s high-tech companies are growing rapidly in large part because they hire a host of foreign-born nationals and because, even with the city’s extreme housing costs, they are able to get away with offering significantly lower wages compared to U.S. companies.

CBRE Labor Analytics reports that Metro Vancouver and Toronto pay its software engineers, who are considered to be of high quality, average annual salaries of about US$63,000.

That compares to US$105,000 on average a year in cities such as Dallas, Columbus and Baltimore — and more than US$125,000 in San Francisco and Seattle, the latter just a few hours drive south of Vancouver. (See chart at bottom.)

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