Thakur Ranjit Singh: If you're not feeling too well just consult your taxi driver

Columnist Lincoln Tan's comments on immigrants sometimes not being able to get jobs for which they are well-qualified reminds me of a similar story.

In an Ethnic Board workshop last year at Kelston Community Centre in Auckland, I had the opportunity to listen to an interesting anecdote from a Chinese speaker. This migrant had an uncanny ability to laugh at his own predicament, which is a great human virtue lacking in Kiwis today.

He said that if a pregnant woman had to give birth while in an Auckland taxi, she would be safe. And that you would be luckier - if you could say that - to have a heart attack in one of Auckland's public buses. This is because the chances are that the Indian taxi driver is doctor, or the Chinese, Malaysian or Singaporean bus driver is a cardiologist.

Both these classes of people and similar professionals are forced to give up their profession which they had practised for most of their lives in their home country.

Their qualifications allow them to migrate to New Zealand in the general skills category but when they get here the reality of job market in Auckland hits them.

Employer and employment agency preferences run at a tangent with and contrary to NZ Immigration Services skills measuring criteria.

That is why doctors and other skilled people are forced to do jobs that amount to a waste of the skills on which they were granted immigrant status.

The irony is that this is happening when New Zealand is crying out for skilled people from overseas, with unemployment here at all time low.

A few months ago I helped friends of mine to pack for a backward migration to Fiji.

The husband was a High Court judge in Fiji and his wife a paediatric doctor in Fiji. She intends to open a clinic in Nadi's tourism belt and treat New Zealand children she was not allowed to treat here.

Speak to Indian and Asian qualified people and they will tell you of their frustrations and the opaque racism in the job market.

This was illustrated by an Auckland University research project which substantiated that there was overt racism in the job market against Chinese, Indians and, in general, most migrants from non-European countries.

But is is not just having well-qualified immigrants driving taxis and buses that puzzles migrants - so do the traffic problems in Auckland.

You need not be an Einstein or a rocket scientist to know why we have this problem. We have a pathetic public transport system. On top of that, while a day in any developed country has 24 hours of work we find Auckland's heavy goods vehicles and 30-wheeler articulated trucks tend to mobilise from 6am to 9 am to compete with Auckland commuters.

If the Auckland Regional Authority, Auckland City Council and other organisations vested with the responsibility of traffic had the will to solve this problem, they would have recruited people from Asian countries who have already travelled this route.

Auckland does not need to reinvent the wheel. Cities like New Delhi, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur can devour the whole of Auckland in one of their suburbs. They have already been through this problem. People from there have experience in controlling problems similar to those Auckland is struggling with.

In New Delhi, no heavy vehicles vehicles are allowed on city roads from 6.30am until 10am, by which time the workers have arrived at their jobs safely and quickly.

Not in Auckland. Here frustrated motorists have to compete for road space and in traffic jams with heavy transport which should do deliveries after hours. It appears Auckland wants to act like a developed city, but have the habits of a Third World country.

The traffic strategists and decision-makers sit in their ivory towers and allow the chaos to continue because they have no clue and are too immodest to seek help from strategists from countries which have been down this path.

Singapore allows only vehicles with odd and even numbers on certain days in the city. This forces people to pool their vehicles and not unnecessarily clutter city roads.

However, the experts from New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore who have been given migrant visas now contribute to its economy and help solve the problems by driving buses and taxis, delivering newspapers or pumping fuel at service stations.

The selective job market here does not allow them into positions where they could contribute strategically. Either these people do not possess New Zealand experience, or their communication skills - mostly their accents - are considered inadequate or unsuitable.

Some will say: Why not use public transport to curb traffic congestion? Why should I waste my money when I can use my car cheaply and conveniently rather than use expensive public transport?

On our wedding anniversary, my children wanted to treat me to a dinner in the city. There were five of us. The Stagecoach bus from Te Atatu Peninsula for us would have cost us a total of $50 for the return trip.

Why should I be stupid and waste money? I took my car for the 10-minute, 12km trip to the city and parked at SkyCity. The total cost, including parking was less than a third of the bus trip.

* Thakur Ranjit Singh is a columnist for ethnic and Fiji newspapers and an advocate of human rights.

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