Immigrants over-qualified at work
December 12, 2011
A professor at the University of Bergen says she’s not surprised by a new study showing that 26 percent of workers in Norway with immigrant background are over-qualified for the jobs they have. She suspects discrimination is behind the figures.
“There seems to be a pattern that immigrants more often than ethnic Norwegian employees find themselves in jobs for which they are over-qualified,” Professor Gro Mjeldheim Sandal told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend. This occurs despite a low unemployment rate in Norway and efforts to recruit so-called “global talent” to Norway, to offset a shortage of, for example, qualified engineers and medical personnel.
The suspected discrimination can apply to immigrants from anywhere in the world, from Asia to North America, and often is linked to alleged lack of what Sandal called “formal competence.” Lack of proficiency in the Norwegian language is also often a stumbling block when immigrants seek work in Norway.
The study (external link), by the European Commission’s research unit Eurostat, showed that the rate of immigrants deemed over-qualified for their jobs in relation to their education and work experience was more than double the rate for native Norwegians. Only 11 percent of ethnic Norwegians were considered over-qualified.
In Europe as a whole, 34 percent of persons who have emigrated from other parts of the world were considered over-qualified, compared to 19 percent of “native” Europeans. While the overall numbers were higher, the difference between immigrants’ and natives’ employment situation was greater in Norway.
Sandal attributed some of the difference to “uncertainty” on the part of Norwegian employers, who hesitate to hire foreigners and even opt for a less-qualified native when given a choice. Simply the presence of a non-Norwegian name can exclude persons from being called in for job interviews, Sandal noted, with that problem applying to both immigrants and persons born in Norway but with foreign names from foreign parents.
Corresponding figures for the two other Scandinavian countries showed three out of 10 immigrants over-qualified for the jobs they held in Sweden, compared to only 10 percent of native Swedes. In Denmark, 24 percent of immigrants were over-qualified compared to 14 percent of ethnic Danes.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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