Job–skills mismatch among migrant workers

A new study published in August 2006 reveals the extent of, and the factors influencing, the under-utilisation of employees’ educational background in the Austrian labour market. The study refers to data from the last census carried out in May 2001. It shows that place of birth and citizenship are the most significant factors with regard to over-qualification in the job. Thus, the skills of migrant workers, either with or without Austrian citizenship, are not or only partly used in the workplace.

A survey conducted by the Centre for Social Innovation (Zentrum für Soziale Innovation, ZSI) reveals that many employees’ qualifications are not or are only partly used in Austria. In May 2001, almost 586,000 people had a higher educational level than they needed in their job. More men than women were unable to make use of the full range of their competences and qualifications at work: some 333,500 men and 252,500 women reported being overqualified in their current occupation. In relative terms, this amounts to nearly 15% of Austria’s total employee population of 3.9 million workers, or 19% of the employees who completed more than nine years of compulsory school attendance.

Education and sex

Overall, being overqualified for the job is inversely connected to the level of education: the higher the educational level, the lower the proportion of employees whose qualification is not fully used at work. According to the 2001 census data, only 13% of the workers who graduated from high school and 15% of those having graduated from universities or colleges reported being more highly skilled than their job required. In contrast, more than 50% of all employees who were overqualified had completed an apprenticeship and another 20% graduated from a technical school.

However, for women, a mismatch between their skills and their job is more common among those with higher educational levels, whereas, among men, being overqualified at work is more likely among those with lower levels of education.

Place of birth and citizenship

The proportion of people who report a job–skills mismatch is influenced by the place of birth as well as citizenship. Most of the 585,960 people working in jobs below their level of education were born in Austria and have Austrian citizenship; this group represented 463,186 employees of the total and corresponded to 17% of all Austrians who were born in Austria (see Table). However, the proportion of workers reporting being overqualified for the job amounts to almost 38% among people who were either born abroad and/or do not have Austrian citizenship. In other words, only 62% of the qualifications of migrant workers are fully used in Austria.

Employees working in jobs below their educational level, 2001
Employees working in jobs below their educational level, 2001
Place of birth Citizenship Number of employees % of employees
Austria Austrian 463,186 17.0
One or both abroad: 122,774 37.7
Abroad Austrian 37,384 29.1
Austria Abroad 3,681 29.9
Abroad Abroad 81,709 44.1
Total 585,960 19.2

Note: The percentage of employees represents a proportion of all employees, according to place of birth and citizenship, with a higher educational level than compulsory school attendance.

Source: Gächter, 2006

People who were neither born in Austria nor possess Austrian citizenship represent the highest share – at 44.1% – of migrant workers working in jobs below their level of education. Among workers who were born in Austria but are not Austrian citizens, this proportion amounts to 29.9% and, thus, is only slightly above that of Austrian employees who were born abroad (29.1%).

Extent of over-qualification

Most employees affected were working in jobs one level below their own educational level. This can be explained by the fact that most of these workers have completed an apprenticeship and, thus, can only ‘fall’ in terms of skills use by one level.

In this respect, both the place of birth and citizenship have an impact on the extent of over qualification. Less than 6% of people who were born in Austria and are Austrians were working in jobs more than one level below their level of education. However, this situation affects 23% of people who were either not born in Austria and/or do not have Austrian citizenship.

At the same time, the proportion of highly educated Austrians born in Austria who were working in jobs more than one level below their own level of education amounts to only 5%, whereas this is the case for 25% of highly educated people who were born abroad and have non-Austrian citizenship.

About the study

ZSI analysed the occupational status of employees and their formal educational level on the basis of data collected by the last census of May 2001. For this purpose, a variable was generated from the two questions in the census survey on occupation and occupational status. This variable indicates the minimum educational level required for the occupation. This level was then compared to the person’s actual educational level. If the difference between the required and actual educational level proved to be negative, this was classified as being overqualified for the job.


Gächter, A., ‘Qualifizierte Einwanderinnen und Einwanderer in Österreich und ihre berufliche Stellung (in German, 810Kb PDF)’ [Qualified female and male migrants in Austria and their occupational status], ZSI discussion paper, 2006.

Gächter, A., Dequalifizierung in Österreich 2001 (in German, summary, 186Kb PDF) [Over qualified in Austria 2001], 2006.

Marion Vogt, Working Life Research Centre (Forschungs- und Beratungsstelle Arbeitswelt, FORBA)

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Eurofound welcomes feedback and updates on this regulation

Add new comment