More jobs for graduates than the unqualified in UK - study

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The number of jobs in the UK requiring a degree has overtaken the total of posts not needing any qualifications, an employment survey suggests.

More than a quarter of jobs are now available only to graduates, it says.

The study shows a major shift in the job market towards requiring many more skilled workers, as roles disappear for those without qualifications.

Researchers at the Institute of Education surveyed 3,000 adults across the job market.

The findings of the Skills and Employment Survey, with the latest figures for 2012, show a significant milestone in the employment landscape, with graduate jobs at a record high level and unskilled jobs at a record low.

Skills mismatch

In the mid-1980s, graduate jobs accounted for about one in 10 jobs, and more than three times as many unskilled jobs would then have been open to school-leavers without any qualifications.

Through the 1980s, 1990s and the first decade of this century, this has relentlessly shifted, with a growing number of jobs needing degrees, while unskilled jobs have become a shrinking part of the labour market.

Start Quote

Employers have been slow to take up the swathes of better-qualified workers, but now they are starting to wake up to the use of graduate labour”

End Quote Prof Francis Green Institute of Education

The fall in jobs without qualifications has accelerated since 2006 and this latest survey places it at a "historic low" of 23% of the labour market, compared with 26% for graduate jobs.

"At no time in the 1986-2012 period have falls and rises of these magnitudes been recorded," says the report.

Among part-time workers, the proportion of jobs available to the unqualified has fallen even further, down by more than half since the mid-1980s.

The study, funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, is the latest evidence of the difficulties facing unqualified and poorly qualified young people entering the job market.

A long-standing problem has been the skills mismatch between employers being unable to find suitably qualified staff while there are high numbers of unemployed youngsters.

This also adds further evidence to the debate about whether the economy needs more or fewer graduates, and whether this is the latest step towards a graduate economy.


The OECD has argued that increasing the number of graduates and skilled workers will help to drive economic growth and that those without skills will find themselves increasingly marginalised and with poor job prospects.

A major report from the Pew research group in the United States this year examined whether it was still worth going to university, and found that those with degrees had weathered the recession much more successfully in terms of protecting income and avoiding job losses.

The US study rejected the anecdotal evidence that debt-burdened graduates were finding themselves stuck in low-skilled jobs.

And this latest UK study from the Institute of Education shows that fewer graduates are now in non-graduate jobs - with this "over-qualification rate" falling.

The survey says that 74% of those with degrees are in graduate jobs, compared with 69% in 2006.

'Compete globally'

Prof Francis Green, of the Institute of Education, said this suggested a better use of graduates in the workforce.

"Although mismatches remain quite high, this turnaround may signal more effective use of qualifications at work by employers.

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Addressing the shortage of skilled technicians we face will require better-quality courses”

End Quote Neil Carberry CBI

"Employers have been slow to take up the swathes of better-qualified workers, but now they are starting to wake up to the use of graduate labour."

Neil Carberry, the CBI's director of education and skills, said: "The vast majority of young people in future are going to need a route to higher skills if the UK is going to compete globally.

"The changing face of the economy means that we have to expand alternative routes to higher skills alongside traditional residential university courses.

"Even below degree level, addressing the shortage of skilled technicians we face will require better-quality courses, with a strong role for businesses working with universities, colleges and providers to design the curriculum."

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