5 Oct 2017

Why are migrant doctors driving taxis?

 “On average across OECD countries, 28.3% of highly educated immigrants are formally overqualified for the job they hold compared with less than 17.6% for the native-born.” Settling In: OECD Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2012

Cleaners who are professors, road workers who are engineers, farm workers who are vets and doctors who drive taxis; why are so many migrants are overqualified? This blog is in two parts and will consider the following:
  • Reasons behind migrants being overqualified
  • How does overqualification affect migrants?
  • The negative effects of overqualified or underemployed migrants for the host country.
  • What will help migrants who are overqualified?

  • Reasons behind migrants being overqualified

1.     Migrant qualifications may not be recognised in their host country. Professionals (engineers, doctors, nurses, professors) often must go through a registration process or assimilation process to bring them ‘up to standard.’ This registration process is often time- and money-consuming and may not be the highest priority for the migrant when they first arrive.

2. Migrant education may not be recognised. Data from the Office of National Statistics on immigration of Eastern Europeans in the UK showed,
“A full 40% of EU8 workers in the survey were over-qualified for the job they were doing, due to the impossibility of converting their home academic titles into a same-level UK one.” International Business Times

3. The primary reason for migration was not to use their skill set. The migrant did not migrate expecting to use their skills, although they might like to. Not expecting to use their skills, may be due to:

a. A migrant may have migrated to be with their spouse or family member whose skill set had been in demand.
b. They were an ‘economic migrant.’ Countries offer immigration if the migrant invests in the host country.
c. Humanitarian reasons, political asylum or refugee.

4. The host country may have a drive for labour in an industry, for example the dairy industry in NZ.

“Dairy farms employ hundreds of migrant workers. It's estimated that 15 per cent of all dairy farm employees aren't New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. “ NZ Farmer.co.nz
These employees are on work visas, their qualifications and experience may not match the work they are doing, but the hope of becoming permanent residents is enough for them to work even if they are underemployed.

5. The language differences may cause a lack of confidence in communicating or promoting themselves at a professional level.

6. Migrants are discriminated against. Mai Chen said,
 "Discrimination is actually preventing New Zealand from fulfilling its full potential."

7. Skilled workers often choose or resort to being self-employed as an attractive alternative to employment. A restaurant or food provider, a stall or a ‘two dollar shop’ or franchise can be a preferable means of employment due to:

a. Fulfilling the immigration requirement in its economic form such as a business visa, where the migrant must show that they can manage a business with staff and budgets etc.
b. Being self-employed can limit being marginalised. In a large organisation a migrant runs the risk of being marginalised, through their accent, their language, their appearance or the fact that they are more qualified than their peers or superiors.

  • How does overqualification affect migrants?

1.Survival first. A conversation recently with a Russian migrant to New Zealand reminded me that initially a migrant’s need is survival. Moving to a new country there are so many changes for their brain to get used to (culture shock) that adapting to those changes consumes energy. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a new migrant’s immediate needs are at the bottom of the pyramid, the physiological and safety level. At this early stage of migration, underemployment can be perceived to be acceptable, even desirable. Later, and this may be a few years or decades, the underemployment may have a detrimental effect.

2. Undervalued. A migrant being unable to put their experience and qualifications to use, or not being valued or recognised for their full potential, can cause anger and frustration.

3. Isolation. A migrant can feel isolated because their co-workers feel too different to them. Having a higher qualification can be added to the reasons their co-workers feel different to them, such as accent, language and appearance.

4. High expectations on their children. Second generation migrants often achieve a higher level of employment than their parents. The second generation doesn’t have to familiarise themselves with education or the idiosyncrasies of a different country. The children of migrants may feel extra pressure to succeed in a way that their parents couldn’t.

5. Poverty, as you are not meeting the needs of your family in your host country, and/or your remittance expectations to your country of origin.

My next post will continue this subject with:
  • The negative effects of overqualified or underemployed migrants for the host country.
  • What can help overqualified migrants?
I would love to hear your experiences and comments. Post them below.