Highly-educated women are now more likely to have jobs abroad than low-educated men

Highly-educated immigrant women outnumbered poorly-educated immigrant men in OECD countries in 2016.
Highly-educated immigrant women outnumbered poorly-educated immigrant men in OECD countries in 2016.
Image: Quartz
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The world’s largest economies want highly-educated immigrants, and women are seeing an edge.

Immigrant women with a high level of education now outnumber immigrant men without high-school diplomas in OECD countries, according to immigration data collected from 2001 to 2016. OECD member countries are generally among the richest in the world. The 36 members accounted for 61% of the world’s GDP in 2018.

To make education attainment comparable across countries, the researchers at the International Migration Division of OECD categorize a high level of education as education beyond high school, a medium level as high school education, and a low level as primary school education and lower.

Women have consistently made up 51% of total immigrants in OECD countries from 2001 to 2016, but highly-educated women have outnumbered both their male counterparts and, for the first time, men with low-level education in 2016.

The share of highly-educated women immigrants has been rising in most countries since 2001, but not all countries have seen a higher share of highly-educated women than poorly-educated men.

Seven countries saw their population of highly-educated women exceed that of men with a low level of education.

The gap has been widening in countries where these women immigrants already outnumbered the men in 2000.

The rest, except for Mexico, saw the share of college-educated women among all immigrants increase.

One reason for the increase in highly-educated woman immigrants is the increasing demand for cognitive and social skills in high-wage occupations in the labor market. Research based on statistical modeling and real job market data has shown that women, both immigrants and not, are taking over high-skilled jobs at a faster speed than men. So, highly-educated women hold an edge over men when finding jobs both at home and abroad.

China and India have been the leading sources of highly-skilled immigrants. A United Nations Human Development report found that highly-educated women from poorer countries were at least 40% more likely than their male counterparts to immigrate to OECD countries. The most likely explanation, according to the report, is that women are seeking to escape structural and cultural barriers to professional achievement at home.