18: From Engineer to Taxi Driver? Language Proficiency and the Occupational Skills of Immigrants
Susumu Imai, Economics Discipline Group, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney
Derek Stacey, Department of Economics, Ryerson University
Casey Warman, Department of Economics, Dalhousie University
Working paper number: 18
We examine the ability of male immigrants to transfer the occupational human capital they acquired prior to immigration using information from the O*NET and a unique dataset that includes both the last source country occupation and the first four years of occupations in Canada. We first augment a model of occupational choice to study the implications of language proficiency on the cross-border transferability of occupational human capital. We then test the empirical predictions using the skill requirements of pre- and post-immigration occupations. We find that male immigrants to Canada were employed in source country occupations that required high levels of cognitive skills, but relied less intently on manual skills. Following immigration, they find initial employment in occupations that require the opposite. These discrepancies are both larger and more detrimental to earnings among immigrants with limited language fluency.
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