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Migrants often mismatched to their jobs – study

21 August 20150 comments

Migrants are much more likely to be overqualified for the jobs they do than native workers, according to a major new international study.

But the disparity between job and level of education differs across migrants depending on the country of residence and the country of origin, the researchers say.

They found women and workers in small organisations more vulnerable to job mismatch or over-education.

The researchers from the University of Amsterdam used data from a continuous and voluntary multi-country web survey, extracting 673,898 observations for the years 2008–2013 from 86 countries.

In the study, titled ‘Skill mismatch among migrant workers: evidence from a large multi-country dataset’ researchers Stefano Visintin, Kea Tijdens and Maarten van Klaveren were investigating  the factors affecting over-education and whether migrants are more often overqualified and the relationship between over-education and different country of origin and destination combinations.

They defined ‘mismatch’ as the situation in which workers have jobs for which lower skill levels are required compared to their education.

“Over-education affects migrants to a different extent according to the country of residence,” the researchers said.

“Migrants working in Europe and Asia are more likely than native workers to be over-educated, whereas migrants in Africa and Latin America are less likely to be overeducated compared to native workers.

They said these findings might be the sign of two kinds of migration.

“Differences in the incidence of over-education between native and migrant workers are related not only to the country of residence, but also to the combination of country of origin and destination,” they said.

The researchers found that female workers are more likely to be overeducated.

“The higher the individual’s level of education, the more over-education can be expected; and the higher the individual’s job level, the less over-education can be expected,” they said.

Over-education occurs more often in small firms compared to large firms and more often in trade, transport, and hospitality compared to the other commercial services or to primary and secondary economic activities.

“Thus, the characteristics of both workers and national labour markets influence the incidence of Over-education,” the researchers said.

They also found reveal that recent labour market entrants are more likely to be overqualified but that this inclination decreases over time.

“Workers with poor bargaining power (e.g., workers with several career breaks) are also inclined towards a higher over-education incidence,” the researchers said.

“Employer discrimination is assumed to increase the incidence of over-education as well. Indeed, second-generation migrants are prone to labour market discrimination, and this in turn seems to relate to the likelihood of over-qualification.

“Finally, a trade-off between job prospects and over-education is hypothesised, with workers accepting temporarily a job for which they are overqualified.

“Our analysis refutes this hypothesis. When the migrant condition was introduced to test whether it is related to the probability of being over-educated, our study confirmed the higher incidence of over-education among the migrant population.

“In the search for personal characteristics determining the migrant educational mismatch, we tested the same theoretically based assumptions specifically for the migrant population.

“The relation between over-education and these personal features found for the total population does not always hold in the case of migrants,” the researchers said.

They also found age was not negatively related to the skill mismatch as it is in the case of native workers, while being part of a poor bargaining power group (for gender or career history reasons) seems to have less effect on the over-education incidence among migrant than native workers.

Good job prospects are related to lower over-education, as in the case of native workers.

Also other migrant-specific conditions—such as sharing the same mother language with native workers—matter, reducing the chances of over-education.

“We conclude that over-education is a persisting problem that affects immigrants over the long run to a greater extent than it does native workers,” the researchers said.



Jess Phillips
AMES Australia Staff Writer