Close to one Canadian out of five (18%) with a university degree is overqualified for their current job. This is what a study published by by Statistics Canada shows, in Insights on Canadian Society. But is the phenomenon of overqualification greater than it was 20 years ago?
The study on overqualification of new university graduates conducted by Statistics Canada takes an up to date look at the phenomenon of overqualification of young people on the job market. Several observations were made over a 20 year period. First, there are more and more university graduates. Between 1991 and 2011, the proportion of university graduates aged 25 to 34 years old increased considerably. Second, more and more active young people hold professional positions, and these jobs require a university degree. Among active women in this age group, 28% held a professional position in 2011, compared to 18% in 1991. Among men, 18% had a job requiring a university degree in 2011, compared to 13% in 1991. But does more and more university graduates on the labour market imply that there are higher rates of overqualification?
Little changes in overqualification
Not really. According to Statistics Canada, overqualification has changed little in the last 20 years. In 2011, 18% of men and women with a university degree worked in professions requiring secondary level grades or lower. The proportion was substantially similar in 1991. In addition, 41% of men and 39% of women with a university degree in 2011 held a position requiring college level studies or less. There again, the proportion has changed little since 1991. Nonetheless, some differences emerged.
Immigrant population affected most
The study in particular shows that immigrants are more likely to be overqualified than workers born in Canada. This is particularly true for women immigrants. 43% of those with a university degree obtained outside Canada or the United States held positions requiring secondary level grades or less in 2011. The proportion falls to 20% for women immigrants who obtained their degree in North America and 15% for women university graduates born in Canada. For men, 35% of immigrants with a university degree obtained outside Canada or the United States worked in 2011 in professions requiring secondary level studies or less. The proportion falls to 16% for male immigrants who obtained their degree in North America. The same rate applies to university graduates born in Canada.
Disparities depending on the field of study
Some fields of study also seem to be more affected by overqualification than others. In 2011, the highest rates were observed in the human sciences (history, literature, philosophy). 33% of university graduates in these programs were working in professions requiring secondary studies. Other fields show rates above average such as the social sciences, behavioural sciences and law; commerce, management and public administration; and agriculture, natural resources and conservation. On the other hand, the lowest rates were observed in the field of education; architecture, engineering and related services; and health.
Other factors of variations
Age also has an influence on overqualification. According to the results observed and logically enough, the older the graduate the less likely they are to be overqualified for the position they hold. There are also gaps geographically. Therefore residents of Manitoba and British Columbia are more likely to be overqualified than residents of Ontario and Quebec. Likewise, graduates living in very large metropolitan areas such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are more likely to be overqualified than residents of large metropolitan census regions such as Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec City or Ottawa.