The prevalence of over-qualification and its association with health status among occupationally active new immigrants to Canada
Authors: Cynthia Chen, Peter Smith, and Cameron Mustard
Objectives: Occupational over-qualification refers to a situation where an individual’s occupational status is lower than would be expected by their training, skills, or experience. The objective of this study is to examine the prevalence of three dimensions of over-qualification among a cohort of new immigrants to Canada, and the associations between each dimension of over-qualification with changes in general and mental health status over a four-year period. Design: This study utilized data from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada. For the purpose of this study, we restricted our sample to those employed respondents who worked before coming to Canada, were planning on working after immigration, were in good health at baseline and were interviewed at 4 years post-arrival (N=2685). We defined three measures of over-qualification based on occupational attainment at 4 years relative to: level of education, previous work experience, and occupational expectation upon arrival in Canada. Regression models explored the associations between each dimension of over-qualification and change in self-reported general and mental health adjusting for a variety of immigrants’ personal and immigration-related characteristics. Results: Four years after arriving in Canada, 51.6% of immigrants were overqualified for their jobs based on their education levels, with a lesser extent overqualified based on experience (44.4%) or expectations (42.8%). Respondents experiencing any dimension of over-qualification were more likely to report a decline in mental, but not general, health. These relationships were only mildly attenuated after adjustment for other possible confounding variables. Inclusion of job satisfaction and perceptions of employment situation mediated these relationships to a large extent suggesting they are primary pathways through which over-qualification influences mental health. Conclusions: On average, occupationally active immigrants who were overqualified for their attained occupations in Canada had poorer mental health status than other immigrants 4 years after arrival in Canada. Effective policies and services that support opportunities for immigrants to use their skills appropriately in the Canadian labor market have important labor, social- and health-related consequences.
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