Educational attainment of migrants

Migrants are more likely to be overqualified, especially in lower-density and rural areas.

Educational attainment is a crucial factor in obtaining high-quality jobs. Levels of education of migrants can partially reveal the extent to which migrants struggle to enter and thrive in the regional labour markets of some regions more than in others.

Migrants are highly educated, especially in some OECD countries and regions. In Australia, Canada, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the UK, most regions show larger shares of highly educated among the foreign-born than among the native-born population, on average (Figures 3.23 and 3.24). In most countries, capital regions house the highest share of both highly educated foreign-born and native-born in their respective country. The share of highly educated migrants represents more than 60% of the foreign-born population in the capital regions of Australia, Mexico and the US. In contrast, in all regions of Italy and Slovenia, less than 20% of the foreign-born population has tertiary education (Figure 3.21).

The labour market, especially jobs that match a worker’s skills and occupation, is one of the main channels through which migrants contribute to regional economies. However, migrants often work in occupations below their qualifications, implying that many will not exploit their full productive and earnings potential. In Europe, the share of individuals who work in occupations below their qualifications tends to be higher outside of cities, for both native-born and migrants (Figure 3.22). Although data on educational achievement is not always available for immigrants, it appears that, in all types of areas in Europe, migrants are more likely to be overqualified, notably when their origin is from non-EU countries (OECD, 2022). While the drivers of the differences in the overqualification shares of native-born and foreigners are manifold, the difficulties associated with recognising foreign professional qualifications are an important factor. This could also explain some of the differences between EU-28 and non-EU-28 migrants, as the recognition process is easier for EU-28 migrants thanks to policies that harmonised diplomas obtained across EU countries.

OECD (2022), OECD Regional Statistics (database), OECD Publishing, Paris,

2017-19; TL2.

Territorial grids and regional typology (Annex B).

OECD (2022), The Contribution of Migration to Regional Development, OECD Regional Development Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD/European Union (2018), Settling In 2018: Indicators of Immigrant Integration, OECD Publishing, Paris/European Union, Brussels,

3.21: Two-year averages are calculated using data for 2018 and 2019.

3.22: The sample includes the employed working-age population (15-64 years old) in Europe. Employees of the public service, international organisations and armed forces (ISCO Level 0) are excluded. This definition follows previous OECD calculations (OECD/EU, 2018). The analysis builds on a pooled sample of observations of the years 2017-19.

3.23-3.24: Data for 2019 or the latest available year.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at