Underemploying Highly Skilled Migrants: An Organizational Logic Protecting Corporate 'Normality'

Annette Risberg, Laurence Romani*

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

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Why do highly skilled migrants encounter difficulties getting a skilled job? In this study, instead of searching for an answer in migrants’ characteristics, we turn to organizations and ask: why do organizations underemploy migrants? With an in-depth qualitative study of a program for highly-skilled migrants’ labour integration in Sweden, we show that highly skilled migrants are perceived as a potential threat to organizational norms and habits. Using the relational theory of risk – approaching risk as socially constructed – the study provides a novel explanation for highly-skilled migrants’ underemployment. It shows an organization logic protecting corporate practices seen as ‘normal’ from a perceived disruption that employing highly-skilled migrants could possibly cause. Theoretical contributions to the understanding of highly-skilled migrants’ employability are threefold: (1) the field assumption that organizations are favorable to hiring migrants is challenged, (2) highly-skilled migrants’ underemployment is explained through a protective organizational logic, and (3) we stress the necessity to problematize an implicit reference to organizational normality when recruiting.
TidsskriftHuman Relations
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)655-680
Antal sider26
StatusUdgivet - apr. 2022

Bibliografisk note

Published online: January 21, 2021.


  • Highly-skilled migrants
  • High-skilled migrants
  • Employability
  • Underemployment
  • Relational theory of risk
  • Hiring skilled migrants
  • Organizational normality
  • Norms
  • Employment