The Occupational Distribution of Employment Among Migrant Workers in the Americas

A recurring debate about migration has to do with the effect of immigrants on the labor market outcomes of workers in destination countries. Although this topic is beyond the scope of this chapter, statistics on the occupational distribution of employment can be revealing.

It is generally assumed that the distribution of workers by ability level largely reflects their distribution by educational level. However, despite the fact that migrants from the Americas are characterized by having a much higher percentage of people with little education than other migrants or the population born in the United States, this is not the case in Spain, where the The percentage of people with little education is high in all three groups, and where the percentage of people with little education among the native-born is 57%, or 10 to 15 percentage points higher than among immigrants. Indeed, compared to most OECD countries,

In the United States, emigrants from the Americas in 2010-2011 were more likely than the native-born population to hold low-skill jobs such as construction, cleaning and maintenance, food processing and services, production or transportation (Graph 11). They were also less likely than the native-born to work in high-skill jobs such as management, business, legal, financial operations, computer science, architecture, or engineering. This was not the case for migrants from other parts of the world, who were much more likely than the native-born (and also

(Chart 11: Occupational distribution of employment of workers in the United States and Europe by place of birth, 2010-2011)

than emigrants from the Americas) to work in high-skill science-related jobs. This is not surprising considering the large differences in educational attainment between immigrants from the Americas and the native-born.

The situation in Europe was a little less polarized. Migrants from the Americas in Europe were, compared to other migrants and the native-born, overrepresented in low-skill elementary occupations (ISCO 9), and service and sales occupations (ISCO 5), which are considered average rating. On the other hand, they were underrepresented in high-skill jobs such as manager, professional and associate professional jobs (ISCO 1-3). Although they were present in all occupations, they were greatly overrepresented in low-skilled jobs (27% of jobs compared to 8% for native-born).

The analyzes corresponding to the evolution of jobs in the OECD countries (OECD 2012a) show that in all countries, high-skilled jobs grew strongly in the 2000-2010 decade and low-skilled jobs only a little. On the other hand, the level of medium-skilled jobs was already stagnant or declining. At the same time, the educational attainment of youth entering the labor force was rising steadily, with more youth attaining tertiary qualifications and a growing percentage completing upper secondary education. In southern European countries, including Spain, there was a very large difference between the educational level of retiring workers and that of young residents entering the labor force. Under these circumstances, it is likely that immigrants did not put native-born workers out of work but rather took on jobs without enough candidates among the latter group. The fact that the jobs used to be manual and had relatively low salary levels supports this claim. The income of immigrant workers is the subject of the next section.

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