Education and Unemployment Among Workers in the Americas

In almost all countries, unemployment tends to be higher among workers with low than high levels of education,14 and this is generally the case whether they are native or foreign-born workers. It is also true for Latin American workers living in OECD countries (Table 9). Overall, the differences range from 4 percentage points between highly and low-educated male workers in the Americas (7% vs. 11%) in the United States to 14 percentage points in Spain (22% vs. 36%) . Interestingly, these differences between high and low levels of education are smaller than those observed among those born in the country of destination, with 18 percentage points in the United States and 16 percentage points in Spain. The reason is that although immigrant workers with high levels of education tend to have less favorable economic outcomes than native-born workers with high levels of education, the opposite is generally true for those with low levels of education. This is a phenomenon that is observed in almost all countries.

Immigrant workers with high levels of education need to have a good level of language competence to mobilize their skills and qualifications in highly skilled jobs. Furthermore, employers tend to prefer workers whose qualifications or experience were obtained within the country rather than abroad.

Migrant workers with low levels of education, however, tend to be a self-selected group, willing to take risks and often accept jobs that some native workers prefer not to do. Also, due to unequal educational opportunities or social disadvantage, their education levels may not necessarily reflect their innate abilities. Finally, if their status in the country of destination is uncertain (for example, if they are not authorized to stay), they may not have access to social transfers. In practice, this means that they cannot be unemployed or afford to spend long periods looking for better job options, since other sources of income may not be available to them.

The unemployment situation of migrants with low levels of education in Spain is especially difficult, with an average of almost 40%, with a lower rate for women from the Americas (26%) than for men (36%). ). In the United States the corresponding figures for women and men are 14% and 11% respectively.

The usual north-south divide for emigrants from the Americas with respect to their characteristics is less present in relation to unemployment rates by level of education, since the Caribbean Region is at the same level as the Andean Region and the Southern Cone. Migrants with low levels of education from each of these regions show unemployment rates of almost 25% or

(Table 9: Unemployment rate of migrant workers in the Americas, by country of birth, sex, and level of education, 2010-2011)

more for men and a little more than 20% for women. Central American emigrants, on the other hand, show rates that are relatively low for men with little education (10%) and approximately 14% for women with little education. Similarly, highly educated men from Central America, particularly from Mexico and El Salvador, show unemployment rates that are comparable to those of highly educated native workers (5%), a characteristic they share with emigrants with tertiary education from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil.

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