Over-qualified workers

NATSEM research released yesterday confirmed that on average higher education pays off. Compared to someone with Year 12 education only, the average graduate will have lifetime earnings of $1.5 million more, after deducting forgone earnings while studying.

But the annual ABS Education and Work survey, released today, again suggests that this average may conceal large variations in actual graduate outcomes. Despite the good-as-it-is going-to-get economic conditions (the survey was carried out in May), 26.3% of graduates were working in jobs that the ABS occupational classifications system says require vocational or no post-secondary education rather than higher education. That’s only .2% lower than last year.

Work I have done on data from the 2006 census suggests that it is the generalist degrees, and particularly arts (with the exception of those with degrees in ‘philosophy and religious studies’), that drag down the average. About 40% of other Arts graduates are in jobs that don’t require higher education.

There are still big gaps in our knowledge about this group of seemingly over-qualified workers, particularly on the extent to which their employment outcomes are either wanted or, if not wanted, temporary.