Transport is one of the occupations in which many overqualified immigrants work.

Many immigrants in Norway are overqualified for their jobs

Around 40 per cent work in occupations with lower competency requirements than their education dictates.

Not taking advantage of competency and skills in the labour market is a problem for society.

This applies to immigrants to a far greater extent than the rest of the population, according to new figures from Statistics Norway.

The proportion of overqualified immigrants was 42 per cent in 2015 and little has changed in the last six years. For the general population, the proportion has been around 14 per cent throughout this period.

Shops and transport

Especially in shops, hotels, restaurants and the transport industry, there are many jobs that do not require higher education.

This is also where we find the highest proportion of overqualified immigrants, a whole 70 per cent, according to figures from 2021.

It is also in these occupations that wages are lowest.

Earn less than others

Immigrants who are overqualified for their jobs have significantly lower wages than others with a higher education that matches their job requirements.

Overqualified immigrants also earn less than those who are overqualified for their jobs in the rest of the population.

For immigrants who are not overqualified, on the other hand, there is little difference between the wages of the highly educated and the general population. This applies if they work in the same profession.

Time of residence has a lot to say

Amongst those with a residence period of less than ten years, an average of 54 per cent were overqualified in the period 2015–2021. The proportion was 30 per cent for those who had lived in Norway for more than ten years.

For immigrants from the EU area with a residence period of more than ten years, the number has increased the most. In 2015, 19 per cent in this group were overqualified for their jobs.

In 2021, the figure was 30 per cent. In most other groups, the proportion has been stable or reduced during this period.

Why is it like this?

Why is it more difficult for immigrants to get a job that suits their qualifications?

A study wrote about in 2021 (link in Norwegian) indicates that the problem lies with the companies that employ them, not the immigrants themselves.

They found that companies do not trust the skills of highly educated immigrants. They question their certificates and language skills – and they believe they are less efficient.

Should examine their own attitudes

Company recruiters must examine their own attitudes. This is the opinion of one of the researchers behind the study, professor Annette Risberg of Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences.

They should ask themselves: What is the reason for why they do not dare to hire a highly competent immigrant?

There is a lack of qualified labour in many industries all throughout Europe. But the workforce exists within its own borders. Therefore, companies must change their thinking, she believes.

“It is normal to be afraid and unsure of the unknown, but it is wise to open up a little. Organisations benefit from having a more diverse workforce,” Risberg says.


Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.

Read the Norwegian version of this article on


F. S. Edelmann and O. Villund Hvor mange innvandrere er overkvalifisert? (link in Norwegian) (How many immigrants are overqualified?) Statistics Norway, 23 June 2022.

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