Nearly one in three graduates are qualified in excess of the requirements for their jobs, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Of these, the majority of over-educated workers were students from the fields of biology, arts and humanities.
The ONS analysis reveals 31% of all graduates were educated to a level higher than their job in 2017 required. This includes 22% of those who graduated before 1992 and 34% graduating in or after 2007. Even five years following graduation a significant proportion of graduates (29%) remain over-educated for the job they are doing.
The largest proportion of workers over=educated for their role are found in London, where 25% of employed individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 have more education than the role specifies. According to the ONS, this is due in part to the numbers of workers from other countries who have migrated to the capital and the prevalence of well-educated individuals taking jobs that require fewer skills to improve their English language and establish homes. 15% of all workers living in London in 2017 were not born in the United Kingdom and were over-educated for their roles.
If we consider both graduates and non-graduates, then overall approximately 16% of those employed in 2017 and aged between 16 and 64 had more education than their job required.
The report from ONS acknowledged it may be choice and personality that lead to many graduates being over-educated for their positions. However, there is also evidence that lower productivity levels could be associated with education exceeding the requirements of the role.
Analysis from the ONS also considered the gender pay gap but concluded over-education is not a major factor. It actually appears from the analysis that men tend to incur a higher penalty to wages than women for being over-educated for their role.
Over-education appears to be a continuing issue for the UK in the job market, according to the ONS analysis, as indicated by the high levels seen in the 35 to 49 years age group.
This data could lead to worries about the number of graduate jobs available. However, figures from the Department for Education’s graduate labour market statistics show a ‘graduate premium’ continues. Information shows that in England graduates earn £10,000 more per year than non-graduates on average, which is in line with previous years. In addition, these statistics show graduates up to the age of 64 earn a median wage of £34,000 and non-graduates are paid £24,000.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) conducted their own research, which supports the analysis from the ONS. The head of public policy from CIPD, Ben Willmott, explains that over-education can be linked to lower job satisfaction from workers feeling they are investing in education which is not translating to the workplace. Willmott believes a complete overhaul of careers guidance and apprenticeships is needed to bring alternative routes more in line with university education.
It is worth noting that graduates from the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields are less likely relatively to end up over-educated within the first five years of completing their degrees.
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