A new study published in the online edition of the journal Injury Prevention has found that immigrants who are overqualified for their job and are new to the country were three times more likely to suffer from a workplace injury compared to their counterparts who are appropriately qualified and have been residing in the country for some time.
In Canada, in 2008, one in four employees between the ages of 25 and 54 was overqualified for the job they were doing, figures indicate.
The researchers drew on almost 63,500 responses to the representative household Canadian Community Health Surveys of 2003 and 2005 to look at the relationship between being overqualified for a job and the risk of sustaining an injury at work.
They also looked at the impact of recent immigrant status. Only adults aged 25 and older, and who had been employed at some point over the preceding 12 months were included in the study.
Having an educational level that exceeded the requirements of the job was associated with a higher risk of work injury for both men and women, but after taking account of the demands of the job this association held true only for men and only for repetitive strain injury.
When immigrant status was considered separately, men who had recently immigrated and who were overqualified for their job role were more than five times as likely to sustain a work injury that required medical attention as those who were not overqualified and who had been in the country for some time.
After taking account of physical job demands, recent immigrants who were overqualified for their job role were still more than three times as likely to sustain an injury at work.
No such associations were evident among women.
"The results of our study have important implications for high income countries where increasing levels of education at the population level have not been matched with concomitant increases in the number of skilled occupations across all fields," write the authors.
Those who are over-educated may not have the knowledge and skills required to perform their job safely, say the authors, and language barriers and lack of familiarity with the country may get in the way of being able to understand or voice health and safety concerns, they suggest.
"Having a higher level of education than required may also lead to lack of solidarity among colleagues or to conflicts with supervisors, which may in turn reduce [their] ability to establish alliances that can help with the regulation of their workload or to obtain other forms of assistance," they say.