Matching Workers to Work: The Case of Asian Immigrant Engineers in Canada (Working Paper #14)

Monica Boyd, Florida State University

Summary: Asian-born engineers appear to be important components of this foreign born labor. This is suggested by research in the United States which focuses on the experience of Asian engineers, particularly those in California’s “silicon valley” (Alarcon, 1999; Fernandez, 1998; Lim, Waldinger and Borogmehr, 1998; Tang, 1993a, 1993b, 1995). However, research also indicates that the skills of these workers are not always well matched to their jobs, finding evidence for under-employment or blocked mobility. Asian (and Mexican) foreign born engineers in the United States are more likely than their white American born counterparts to be employed in technical work and less likely to move from engineering positions into the management rungs.

Are such findings observed in other post-industrial economies? This paper addresses this question for immigrant Asians with engineering training who are living and working in Canada. After a review of the reasons why Asian engineers may be mismatched in the Canadian labor market, immigrant engineer flows are briefly profiled before raising the three research questions of this paper: 1) do Asian immigrants with foreign training in engineering have the same labor market insertion profiles as do those who are native born; 2) do Asian immigrants with foreign engineering training have the same occupational patterns of employment that are observed for the native born with similar credentials; and 3) does increasing duration in Canada attenuata any observed differences in employment and occupational profiles that exist between the Asian born and other immigrant groups or between the Asian born and the Canadian born? The analysis associated with these questions extends U.S. research in two ways. First, in reviewing the reasons for mis-matches in training and labor market performance, attention is given to a factor not extensively studied by U.S. researchers, namely certification requirements that may exist in highly regulated occupations. Second, by focusing on Canada, the analysis offers a comparative perspective on the utilization of high skilled immigrant labor.

Working Paper #14»