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Under-employing skilled migrants and the case of benevolent discrimination

Why do highly skilled migrants encounter difficulties getting a skilled job? And at what point does being benevolent become discrimination? Professor Laurence Romani visits the podcast Sound Economy to talk about her research on skilled migrants in the workplace.

Sweden – as do many other countries – welcomes a lot of highly educated migrants every year. Highly skilled labor means people with at least a bachelor’s degree, but sometimes a master’s or a PhD. Many of them with years of experience in their respective fields in their home countries. However, getting a job at a level that matches their skills is exceedingly difficult. Some get a job below their skill level, and many haven’t managed to enter the job market at all. So why is this?

This problem isn’t exclusive to Sweden, but is wide-spread in any country that receives skilled migrants. Instead of looking for answers in what these migrants might lack or do wrong, Laurence Romani and her colleagues have turned to organizations, asking why do they under-employ highly skilled migrants. The answer lies in an organizational logic that sees highly skilled migrants as a potential threat or disruption to organizational norms and practices, Romani states.

“A lot of work is done on people to make them adjust, but not on organizations and they are the ones hiring,” says Romani.

Benevolent discrimination

Even companies who explicitly want to help migrants fall into the trap of what Romani describes as benevolent discrimination.

“Rather than looking at them as talent that can bring something to the company, they looked at them as charity. And as soon as see them as someone you need to help you don’t see them as equal. You can even start to see them as inferior. You reproduce a social order where you are above and they are below,” says Laurence Romani.

To learn more – and take part of some useful tips for highly skilled migrants looking for work in a foreign country – listen to Laurence Romani and Victor White in this week’s episode of Sound Economy.

Under-employing skilled migrants and the case of benevolent discrimination