In Brief

Third of UK graduates ‘overqualified’ for their job

ONS figures reveals phenomenon of ‘underemployed’ growing

Almost a third of UK graduates are overeducated for the job they do, as a result of the “pernicious tendency towards precarious low-quality jobs for youth that offer neither income security nor professional development”, says The Conversation.

According to figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, in 1992 the number of overqualified graduates was 22%, but this jumped to 34% for those leaving university after 2007.

A person is “overeducated” if they possess more education than required for the job, says the BBC, but the ONS “also uses the term to mean when a worker's skills and knowledge are not being used”.

At 25%, London had the highest proportion of overeducated workers in the UK, while graduates in arts and humanities were on average more likely to be under-using their education.

Describing overeducation as a “persistent phenomenon in the UK labour market”, the ONS said while it could not be certain, “priorities for some people over-and-above money may contribute to their below-par post-graduation earnings”.

But Forbes says a “myopic focus on unemployment numbers” has stifled debate about the subject, as well as “the shameful experience of underemployment itself”.

The problem of underemployment is widespread across developed economies. In Australia in 2013, 26% of young graduates were “underutilised”, while in Canada 40% of young graduates are overqualified for the work they do, up from 36% five years ago. In the US, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates around 44% of young undergraduates are employed in positions that technically do not require their degree.

And “those who spent time underemployed also tended to earn lower wages once they finally landed a job that matched their education”, says Slate.

However, while the phenomenon of graduate overeducation is growing, a degree still attracts higher earnings. The latest UK figures show that up to the age of 30, postgraduates typically earn £9,000 more than those without degrees - a premium of about 40%.  

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