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STEM-educated Immigrants in Canada – The country of education appears to be an important determinant

This paper examines the skill utilization and earnings of employed immigrants with a university degree in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Unlike earlier papers, which dealt with immigrant STEM graduates as a whole, this paper disaggregates the results by field of study and degree level (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral).

In 2016, immigrants represented more than half of the population in the prime working age population that had a university degree in a STEM field in Canada. At the master’s and doctoral levels in engineering and computer science, close to three-quarters were immigrants. This study focuses on immigrants with a university degree in STEM fields who entered Canada as adults (at 18 or over) and were aged 25 to 64 in 2016. Relative to the Canadian-born in similar fields and with similar levels of education, immigrants with bachelor’s degrees had considerably lower skill utilization rates and earnings outcomes compared with those with doctoral degrees. For example, immigrant STEM bachelor’s degree holders earned 32% less than their Canadian-born counterparts (unadjusted), and 28% less after adjusting for demographic, language, and working-time variables. The gap in the earnings of immigrant doctoral graduates relative to the Canadian-born was much smaller: 19% less in unadjusted earnings and 9% less in adjusted earnings. Immigrant master’s degree holders were in the middle in terms of relative outcomes.

By field of study, immigrant engineering graduates, particularly at the bachelor’s level, had relatively lower skill utilization rates and earnings. Only 39% of employed immigrant engineering graduates at the bachelor’s level found a job requiring a university degree, whereas 71% of their Canadian-born counterparts did so. They also earned 43% less (unadjusted) than Canadian-born engineering bachelor’s degree holders, and 32% less after adjusting for demographic, language, and working-time variables. Immigrant computer science graduates did somewhat better: bachelor’s degree holders earned 33% less than the Canadian-born (unadjusted) and 18% less (adjusted). Both immigrant and Canadian-born science graduates tended not to work in STEM occupations (only 30% to 32% did so). This is likely because a bachelor’s degree in science is less specialized than an engineering or computer science degree.

The slightly more than half of STEM-educated immigrants who did not find a STEM job had the weakest skill utilization rates and earnings outcomes. This was true for all three fields of study. Overall, only 20% found a job requiring a university degree (versus 41% of STEM-educated Canadian-born who did not find a STEM job). These STEM immigrants without STEM jobs earned 36% less than their Canadian-born counterparts who had not found a STEM job (unadjusted) and 31% less (adjusted). Again, immigrants with an engineering degree who did not find a STEM job fared the worst: only 15% found a job requiring a university degree and they earned 49% less (unadjusted) and 34% less (adjusted) than the Canadian-born without STEM jobs.

The country of education appears to be an important determinant. STEM immigrants educated in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom or France had outcomes similar to those of the Canadian-born. STEM immigrants educated in other countries did less well, some very poorly. There may be many reasons why immigrant STEM graduates educated in non-Western countries have relatively poor outcomes. For example, it may be related to actual or perceived education quality. In the absence of a STEM labour shortage, employers may tend to hire graduates from universities and with labour market experience with which they are familiar. There may also be potential credential recognition issues in fields like engineering that are partially regulated.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Skill Utilization and Earnings of STEM-educated Immigrants in Canada: Differences by Degree Level and Field of Study

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