Understanding Skilled Immigrants’ Mental Health: The Impacts of Underemployment in Post-Migration Life
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Economic immigration is a powerhouse for Canadian labour force, and foreign trained highly skilled workers are a crucial part of the economy. In 2019, 58% of permanent resident admissions in Canada were economic immigrants; 48% of these economic immigrants were highly skilled immigrants who hoped to utilize their foreign training and work experience to contribute to Canadian market. However, many skilled immigrants encounter barriers when searching for professions consistent with their skill sets, and many end up working in low-skilled sectors of employment where they are overqualified—a situation termed underemployment. This literature review investigates the underemployment experience of skilled immigrants and the impact of underemployment on the mental health of skilled immigrants. A systemic search of the literature was undertaken through PubMed, PsychINFO, Google Scholar, CityU Library, and Elicit. Findings suggest that underemployment is associated with psychological distress such as depressive symptoms, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Multiple themes emerged from the literature: the unique acculturation experience of skilled immigrants, loss and grief caused by underemployment and migration, somatization of mental health issues, and barriers to accessing mental health services. After providing a review of the literature related to these themes, this paper discusses implications for counselling psychology, directions for future research, and recommendations for mental health professionals to effectively support underemployed skilled immigrants.