Population Research and Policy Review 20: 107–133, 2001.
© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Match or mismatch? The employment of immigrant engineers in
Canada’s labor force
& DERRICK THOMAS
Florida State University;
Abstract. Using major ﬁeld of study and labor force data from the 1996 Canadian census,
this paper assesses variations in the correspondence between training in engineering ﬁelds
and employment patterns. Following a review of the issues associated with under-valuation
of credentials, comparisons are made between Canadian born men age 30–54 and permanent
residents who immigrated at children and those who immigrated at age 28 or later with respect
to labor force participation, employment, and occupational location. Permanent residents who
immigrated as adults are assumed to be foreign trained. Compared to the Canadian born and to
those immigrating as children, this group is the least likely to be in the labor force or employed.
When employed, they are less likely to have either manager, engineering or technical occu-
pations, and most likely to be employed in other occupations. This slippage between training
and occupational location is the greatest for those permanent residents with only Bachelors
degrees. In part, these aggregate ﬁndings reﬂect recency of arrival of those immigrating as
adults. For this group, mis-match is strongest within the ﬁrst few years of arriving in Canada.
Men with engineering training who have been in Canada 15 years or more and/or who have
Masters and Ph.D. degrees have employment patterns and occupational proﬁles that more
closely correspond to those of their Canadian-born counterparts or those arriving as children.
Keywords: Engineers, Foreign born, Labor force, Canada
In the context of global competition, we are often told that the wealth of
nations and the economic well being of their residents will rest on the skills of
their workforces. National wealth and individual well-being not only depend
on the level of skills but also how efﬁciently those skills are employed to add
value (Reich 1991). These themes of levels and utilization of human resources
are core in many discussions over international migration to post-industrial
countries. How to increase the skill levels of immigrant inﬂows is a question
often raised Do skilled immigrants ﬁnd employment commensurate with their
education and experience is a second.
Increasing the skill component of immigration ﬂows fosters not only the
entry of more highly educated migrants in general but also the migration of
professionals. The latter is particularly likely in an era where economic activ-