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“I am from nowhere”: identity and self-perceived health status of skilled immigrants employed in low-skilled service sector jobs

Rajendra Prasad Subedi (Department of Geography and Planning, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada)
Mark Warren Rosenberg (Department of Geography and Planning, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Article publication date: 12 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The foreign-born skilled immigrant population is growing rapidly in Canada but finding a job that utilizes immigrants’ skills, knowledge and experience is challenging for them. The purpose of this paper is to understand the self-perceived health and social status of skilled immigrants who were working in low-skilled jobs in the service sector in Ottawa, Canada.

Design/methodology/approach

In this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews with 19 high-skilled immigrants working as taxi drivers and convenience store workers in the city of Ottawa, Canada were analysed using a grounded theory approach.

Findings

Five major themes emerged from the data: high expectations but low achievements; credential devaluation, deskilling and wasted skills; discrimination and loss of identity; lifestyle change and poor health behaviour; and poor mental and physical health status.

Social implications

The study demonstrates the knowledge between what skilled immigrants expect when they arrive in Canada and the reality of finding meaningful employment in a country where international credentials are less likely to be recognized. The study therefore contributes to immigration policy reform which would reduce barriers to meaningful employment among immigrants reducing the impacts on health resulting from employment in low-skilled jobs.

Originality/value

This study provides unique insights into the experience and perceptions of skilled immigrants working in low-skilled jobs. It also sheds light on the “healthy worker effect” hypothesis which is a highly discussed and debated issue in the occupational health literature.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Professor Mark Rosenberg is the Tier I Canada Research Chair in Development Studies (File No. 950-228151). This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to funding from the Canada Research Chairs programme.

Citation

Subedi, R.P. and Rosenberg, M.W. (2017), "“I am from nowhere”: identity and self-perceived health status of skilled immigrants employed in low-skilled service sector jobs", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 253-264. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-09-2015-0035

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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