Statistics Canada findings buck trend on over-educated immigrants

posted on May 23, 2024

Toronto Star | Nicholas Keung, Immigration Reporter

Latest census finds 26.7 per cent of recent immigrants were over-educated for their jobs in 2021, down from 31.1 per cent in 2016.

The rate of immigrants hired in jobs they are overqualified for has dropped to the lowest rate in 20 years, says a new Statistics Canada study.

Using census data, researchers examined the educational achievements of immigrants and the educational requirements for their occupations. Overeducation or education-occupation mismatch is defined as when someone with at least a bachelor’s degree is employed in a position requiring no more than a high school education.

The 2021 census found only 26.7 per cent of recent immigrants were over-educated for their jobs, down from 31.1 per cent in 2016. Those in jobs fitting their qualifications went up to 44.4 per cent from just 40 per cent over the same five-year period.

“Selecting immigrants with high levels of education increases their chances of economic success,” said Statistics Canada in the report released on Wednesday. “Immigrants with a bachelor’s degree or higher are more adaptable to changes in the labour market and have steeper growth in employment earnings than those with a trades or high school education.”

But in reality, many immigrants with a bachelor’s degree or higher have occupations that underutilize their skills, which harm their employment income, productivity and well-being, it said.

The report attributed the progress to Canada’s job growth in high-skilled occupations between 2016 and 2021, compared to the previous 15 years, as well as reforms to the immigrant selection system in recent years that have put more emphasis on positive immigrant attributes such as Canadian education and work credentials contributing to better economic outcomes.

Census data from 2001 to 2021 showed the number of Canadians age 25 to 64 with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased to six million people from 5.2 million, with immigrants accounting for 60 per cent of that growth.

In 2021, about 55.3 per cent of recent immigrants and 39.8 per cent of established immigrants had at least a bachelor’s degree, while 32.6 per cent of their Canadian-born peers age 25 to 34 and 24.8 per cent of those age 35 to 64 had the same education level.