Archive for the 'Employment & work' Category

Skills matching for recent graduates

Andrew Carr asks if I can compare the skills mismatch of international and local students. To re-cap, a study of former overseas student migrants in 2006 found that:

18 months after their arrival found the skills match for former overseas students at the following levels: accounting 35%, business/commerce 5%, education 31%, engineering 23%, IT 35%, law 50%, nursing 90%.

I can’t get a direct matching comparison but there are surveys relating to this issue.

The Graduate Destinations Survey (summary results are free), which surveys graduates about four months after completion, now has a question which asks about the link between the graduate’s qualification and their main paid job (it’s only asked of those in full-time work, so I will put in brackets the percentage still looking for full-time work). The answers combine those who answered either a ‘formal requirement’ or ‘important’: Read the rest of this entry »

Should the government change migration laws to suit universities?

Australia’s universities are in a bit of a panic. With international student applications down, and much bigger drops in the ‘feeder’ colleges, the next few years are looking particularly grim.

While issues such as the high dollar, student safety and more intense competition for even-more broke universities in the UK and US are affecting the international student market, changes to skilled migration rules are also causing grief.

Most university courses that were being used as backdoor routes to permanent migration are still on the skilled occupations list used by the immigration department (the vocational education sector has not been so lucky), but the number of visas available in this category has dropped significantly. The emphasis has shifted to employer-sponsored migrants. So international students now need to find an employer to support them, creating much more uncertainty.

Yesterday the Group of Eight lobby group joined other university groups in calling on the government to ‘fix’ the problems. Read the rest of this entry »

Australia’s still surprisingly secure workers

The ABS released their labour mobility survey yesterday, and as I predicted two years ago Labor’s legislated job security provisions, which took effect about five months into the survey, did not stop retrenchments going up.

3.7% of workers who were employed in the year to February 2010 were retrenched, compared to 1.8% under WorkChoices in the year to February 2008. Retrenchment levels have more to do with business conditions than legislation.

While the 2010 result confirms that as a general point, the longer term trends on this in the figure below are quite intriguing. As measured by people being retrenched, the common belief that job security is declining over time is not correct. 2010 was the first negative trend in nearly 20 years. Maybe the long boom has saved more employers from the difficult decision to let people go. Or maybe there are other things going on that make dismissal a less common form of labour market adjustment.

Graduates three years on

Graduate Careers Australia has released Beyond Graduation 2009, a follow-up survey three years on of graduates they first surveyed in 2006.

A few points of interest on topics of particular interest to me:

* The proportion of their sample who were overseas had doubled from 3.2% to 6.8%, which means that they will not be repaying their HELP debt. People with qualifications in ‘architecture and building’ are most likely to be overseas (12%).

* The graduates in non-graduate jobs generally don’t want to be there, though this is is more true of ‘sales workers’ than ‘clerical and administrative workers’. The second most frequent reason (‘to earn a living’ had a majority response for all occupations) for taking a clerical job was ‘to develop general skills’, but only 7% of sales worker respondents gave that reason. By contrast, 47% of sales workers say they took their job because it was the only one they were offered, compared to 23% of clerical workers. Read the rest of this entry »

The financial benefits of higher education

The ABS has an interesting new publication out today on the financial benefits of higher education.

ABS anlayst Hui Wei uses data from the 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses to provide estimates of rates of return for investment in higher education. In the figure below, the rates are based on post-tax earnings of graduates compared to someone who finished their education at year 12 (say a Year 12 completer earned $800 a week and a graduate $1,200 a week – the graduate premium would be $400). The graduates are aged through the census of the stated year (eg it assumes that a 1996 graduate would at age 40 earn what a 40 year old graduate earned in 1996).

The costs are assumed to be the opportunity cost of four years out of the workforce with no earnings in that time, plus direct costs such as HECS.

Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a higher education ‘market failure’ in engineering?

An article in yesterday’s AFR education supplement (not online, sorry) reported mining industry representatives criticising Labor’s proposed demand-driven higher education system.

Chris Walton of APESMA said

Engineering is the pin-up to demonstrate that a demand-driven system will be a disaster for this country. … It’s the classic example of market failure and the consequences of that market failure for this country are very concerning.

In reality ‘market failure’ – or at least, other than a failure of markets to exist – is not likely to be a major issue here. In a paper I wrote for NCVER a couple of years ago I showed that university applications do respond to labour market shortages. Objective evidence of shortages of engineers emerged over 2003-04, and with a lag of a year demand for engineering courses grew from 2006 (from applications that would mostly have been made in 2005).

Figure: Engineering applications and offers

Source: DEEWR. Read the rest of this entry »

Should student contributions be paid upfront?

In starting work on a paper about the student loans scheme, one thing I wanted to investigate was a finding of a survey of first-year students (pp.71-72) that a significant minority – ranging from 23% of those aged over 25 to 38% of 19 year olds – work while studying ‘to save for repaying future HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP debts’.

I wasn’t sure that this would be the right financial strategy for students with cash to spare while studying. The apparent incentive in the HECS-HELP scheme is to pay on enrolment. If a student pays at least $500 upfront, he or she will get a ‘bonus’ of 25% on the amount paid. In one of the examples I use below, an Arts student with an annual charge of $5,310 who paid $2,000 upfront would have $2,500 wiped from their balance, leaving $2,810 to be paid off through the tax system.

If a student makes a later voluntary repayment using their savings they get a bonus of 10%. For example, once they already had a debt they could pay $2,000 and get $2,200 taken off their balance. Could the benefits of saving the money and accruing interest compensate for the bonus shrinking from 25% to 10%? Read the rest of this entry »

A left-familist misreading of the data?

The left-familists were given free run by the Fairfax papers over the weekend in responding to the ABS’s latest report on working time arrangements.

The SMH article opened with the statement that

THE claim that working hours are becoming more family-friendly is a myth, new figures suggest, with Australian workers having less opportunity to negotiate flexible work arrangements than they did the best part of a decade ago.

Of course there is no such myth; we’ve been endlessly told the opposite by the advocates of more labour market regulation.

The SMH‘s claim that ‘the number of workers who negotiated an agreement for flexible hours with the boss – either formally or informally – fell from 40 per cent to about 30 per cent’ looks like it might be a misreading of the statistics or coming from a change in the question or both. Read the rest of this entry »

Are your uni days the best of your life?

The SMH yesterday wrote up this report which, as many other analyses have, finds graduates are not happier than other people (though the research is mixed on this; some studies do find a benefit, and in the 2007 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes sample graduates are happier).

Education and happiness in the school-to-work transition by Curtin University’s Michael Dockery is especially interesting on the question of graduates and happiness because it uses the the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), which tracks the same individuals over time. They start when the respondents are in Year 9 and finish when they are in their mid-20s. This lets us see happiness over time and the possible effects of changing circumstances.

Happiness relative to mean, by educational attainment

Source: Figure 2(b) in Education and happiness in the school-to-work transition, published by NCVER
Read the rest of this entry »

Some implications of a large temporary population

Because the number of people with Australian residence rights crept up with little public awareness or debate, our thinking about what this means for them and for the permanent population is not well developed. Some observations:

1. The distinction between temporary and permament residence is important in eligibility for a wide range of welfare rights. It is part of the dispute about whether international students should receive public transport concessions. I have argued in the past that as temporary residents international students should not be entitled to this taxpayer subsidy – that choosing to study here gives them no claim on public funds.

Commenter caf has suggested that the fact that many international students go on to acquire permanent residence rights complicates this argument. Another complicating factor is the claim that given that temporary residents pay taxes, why should they not all also receive government services? While international students aren’t likely to be paying much tax if they are observing the work conditions of their visas, section 457 visa holders will often be paying significant amounts of tax.

2. Does a large population with residential rights but not voting rights have broader political implications? Read the rest of this entry »