Andrea Dunlavy.
Andrea Dunlavy.

– For some groups of over-educated foreign-born persons, there is an association with poor self-rated health, particularly among men and women from countries outside of Western Europe, says newly appointed PhD in Sociology Andrea Dunlavy at CHESS, Centre for Health Equity Studies and the Department of Sociology.

In Sweden, over-education among migrants has been increasingly discussed in the public discourse. Often used examples are engineers, lawyers or medical doctors who, despite their high level of education, may work in jobs for which they are overqualified, such as taxi-drivers.  Still, there has been very little research on the potential health impacts of being in this state of mismatch among the foreign-born.

The study reveals that some over-educated foreign-born workers are more likely to report poor health compared to native-born matched workers. No association between poor self-rated health and over-education was found among native-born workers, a finding that needs further exploration according to the study.  

– We have employment based integration policies, where the main focus is on getting migrants into the labor market. But it’s not just about getting a job, we have to also consider the health implications of working life quality and the working conditions that characterize the jobs people are getting, says Andrea Dunlavy.

Compared to the native-born, migrants may be more likely to experience greater stress, and by extension poorer health, as a result of experiences of mismatch. For example, migrants might be more likely to experience labor market integration stressors that natives do not. These stressors, such as discrimination, may also serve to segregate migrants into jobs for which they are over-qualified. Migrants may also find it more difficult to transition out of jobs for which they are over-qualified because of the labor market integration difficulties that they face. This could entail experiences of chronic stress, which can be particularly harmful to health.

The labor market in Sweden today is also becoming increasingly polarized– there are more low-wage  jobs and more high-wage jobs, but  fewer jobs  in the middle.

– We are also seeing a more precarious labor market and the development of  a “gig economy”, which links workers and consumers via mobile phone applications.  

Such changes, in combination with integration policies that primarily focus on employment but pay less attention to the quality of that employment, are important factors to keep in mind in relation to migrant health.

– This is important since foreign-born persons overall tend to experience more labor market disadvantages compared to the native-born, says Andrea Dunlavy.

More about the research

The study “Educational mismatch and health status among foreign-born workers in Sweden”, written by Andrea Dunlavy, Anthony Garcy and Mikael Rostila, is one of four studies in Andrea Dunlavy’s PhD thesis “Between Two Worlds: Studies of migration, work, and health” (2017).

For more information, please contact Andrea Dunlavy, tel 08 16 31 88.