Over- and underqualification of migrant workers

Download PDF:
Tijdens, K.G., Van Klaveren, M. (2011). Over- and underqualification of migrant workers. Evidence from WageIndicator survey data. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: University of Amsterdam, AIAS Working Paper 110. (EN)


Are overeducation and undereducation more common for migrants compared to domestic workers? If so, is overeducation and undereducation similar across migrants from various home countries and across various host countries? This paper aims at unravelling the incidence of skill mismatch of domestic and migrant workers employed in 13 countries of the European Union, namely Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Here migrants are defined as workers not born in the country where they are currently living. They originate from more than 200 countries, thereby reflecting a heterogeneous group, ranging from migrants for economic reasons and refugees, to expats, intercultural married, and others. Concerning overeducation, most of the literature points to explanations related to job allocation frictions. The theoretical explanations for overeducation all refer to job allocation frictions. They apply to workers in general at first job entry, to particular groups of workers at fi rst job entry such as re-entering housewives or workers who have experienced unemployment spells and involuntary quits, to workers accepting a lower-level job if the probability of promotion is higher, to imperfect information from the employer’s side associated with a lack of transparency of diplomas or of transferability of credentials, to poor abilities of individual workers, and to labour market discrimination. Six hypothesis have been drafted for empirical testing. One hypothesis has been made for undereducation. This is assumed to be the case for workers with higher abilities, here defined as workers in supervisory positions. This paper builds on statistical analyses of the data of the large WageIndicator web-survey about work and wages, posted at all national WageIndicator websites and comparable across all countries. Using the pooled annual data of the years 2005-20010, we used 291,699 observations in the analysis. The large sample size allows a break-down of migrant groups according to country of birth in order to better capture the heterogeneity of migrants. Logit analyses have been used to estimate the likelihood of being overqualified compared to having a correct match or being underqualified. Similar estimations have been made for underqualification compared to having a correct match or being overqualified.

One of five workers asseses to be overqualified (20%). When comparing the domestic and migrant workers, overqualification occurs less often among domestic workers than among migrant workers (19% versus 24%). The analyses show that overeducation occurs indeed more often among migrant workers. Yet, the analyses also reveals that the overeducation occurs substantially more often in the old EU member states compared to newly accessed EU member states, regardless being a domestic worker or a migrant. The model shows that the heterogeneity of the migrant groups should be taken into account. Of all migrant and domestic groups, the odds ratio of being overqualified is highest for migrants working in EU15 and born in EU12. The odds ratio decreases for the migrants from USA, Canada and Australia. The odds ratio of being overeducated increases with educational attainment. It decreases with hierarchical level within the occupation, with the the corporate hierarchical levels, and with the skill level of the job. The hypothesis regarding job allocation frictions are confirmed. The odds ratios of being overqualified increase for recent labour market entrants, for workers with an employment spell, for female workers, for migrants who arrived at an adult age thus challenging the transparency of credetials in the host country, and for for 1st and 2nd generation migrants and ethnic minorities thus challenging discrimination in the labour market. No support was found for the hypothesis that workers with presumably poor language abilities are more likely to be overeducated. Concerning undereducation, the analyses confirm that having a supervisory position increases the odds ratio of being underqualified. This suggest that underqualified workers with higher capabilities provide internal career ladders. This study in part confirms the existing literature, in particular the job allocation frictions for the entire labour market. It expands existing empirical findings concerning the reasons why migrants are more likely to be overeducted.