Immigrant Language Ability, Occupational Choice, and Employment Skill Match Quality

Research team: Herbert J Schuetze, University of Victoria; Ana Ferrer, University of  Waterloo; Research assistant, University of Victoria

Institutional partner: BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training


Recent arrivals obtain lower wages than similarly skilled native-born and earlier immigrant cohorts, are less likely than previous cohorts to enter into professional occupations commensurate with their education, and rarely enter their intended occupations. Explanations for these discrepancies include changes in the source country composition of recent arrivals and related declines in English/French language and literacy skills. The changes may also help to explain observed declines in the transferability of foreign experience and credentials, resulting in an underutilization of skills.

The research will use multiple regression analysis to identify the effects of language ability, language intensity of the home country occupation, and the interaction of these factors on the occupational outcomes and skill match (between source country skills and those utilized in employment in Canada) of immigrants. The analysis will be conducted using data from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC). LSIC contains information on both the occupation performed in the immigrant’s home country as well as detailed information on jobs held in Canada. Job skill levels will be determined by reference to a database that measures the importance of a range of skills, including language skills, for various occupations. This will identify the importance of language skills to match the immigrant’s home occupation. LSIC also contains extensive measures of language ability, language use, learning methods, and perceptions regarding importance of language skills and the ability to communicate effectively. A measure of “linguistic distance” will be constructed to capture variations in the transferability of language skills.