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New research looks into why organizations under-employ highly-skilled migrants

Research published earlier this year investigates potential reasons for the underemployment of highly-skilled migrants at the organizational level. The study shifts the focus from the common narrative of finding explanations at the individual level, to asking why organizations themselves under-employ highly-skilled migrants.

Highly-skilled migrants are often underemployed in their host country, meaning they get jobs below their qualification level and their potential. Explanations for this phenomenon usually center on the individual characteristics of migrants. Recent research co-authored by Laurence Romani, Misum Affiliate and the new PRME Director at Stockholm School of Economics, shifts the focus from this emphasis on the individual (why are highly skilled migrants underemployed?) to the level of organizations, asking: why do organizations under-employ highly skilled migrants?

The study follows a mentorship program aiming to integrate highly-skilled migrants in the labor market in Sweden. The research findings suggest that highly skilled migrants are perceived as a potential threat to organizational norms and practices, reflecting the status position of migrants in Swedish society. Therefore, organizations see under-employing migrants as a way to protect themselves from this perceived risk to corporate normality and even performance.

Read a summary of the article by the authors as published by Business of Society (BOS) at Copenhagen Business School, and the full research article here.


Annette Risberg is a researcher at the Center for Responsible Leadership at SSE, Professor of Diversity Management at Copenhagen Business School and Professor of Organization and Management at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences. Her research focus is on practices of diversity management in general and the inclusion of immigrants in organizations.

Laurence Romani is a Misum Affiliated Researcher, head of the Center for Responsible Leadership and an Associate Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics. She is also the PRME Director at Stockholm School of Economics. Her work focuses on representation and interaction with the cultural Other in respectful and enriching ways.

Image from Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash.