HomeJobsIncreasing number of third-level graduates working in jobs for which they are...

Increasing number of third-level graduates working in jobs for which they are overqualified, report finds


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Reports published by The Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) found that Ireland has expanded third-level education more than almost any other EU country.

According to the findings, this was done by significantly increasing the number of graduates from households where parents had lower levels of formal education.

However, this increase has resulted in graduate numbers outpacing high end employment opportunities that exist in the Irish labour market.

The report said that those working in roles they are overqualified for accounts for over 30pc of all Irish working third level graduates.

This group makes up 14pc of all employment, the second highest share in the sample behind Spain which has the highest share and was higher than the country average of 8.6pc.

This increase in the third level graduates not only had an impact on graduate employment but also impacted those who had lower levels of education.

Despite being overqualified, graduates were found to have filled roles with lower skill requirements, having a knock on effect on those without a third level education, effectively “bumping down” adults with lower levels of formal education.

“More and more graduates are taking these positions and the people with lower levels of formal education that used to fill those jobs are getting bumped down, getting bumped out of the labour market entirely almost,” Ciarán Nugent, economist at NERI said.

While the number of people who do not have third level education is decreasing in Ireland, the cohort with a lower level education is also experiencing lower employment rates.

“Not everyone is made for third level education so there still are a percentage of adults out there that have lower levels of education,” Mr Nugent said.

“If you look at those under 40, the employment rate in 2007 for this group was about 50pc, 1 in 2…today it’s 20pc.

“So if you are under 40 and lower educated, only one in five of that group are actually in employment,” Mr Nugent added.

Since the 1990s, Ireland went from a country with one of the lowest levels of third level graduates to one of the highest.

“In broad terms, the reports show that since the 1990s, Ireland has transitioned from having one of the lowest shares of third-level graduates to the highest in a high-income EU context,” Mr Nugent said.

“Most of this occurred by narrowing the gap of third-level attainment by social origin. Irish adults whose fathers were in the lowest bracket of formal education (up to junior certificate), are now most likely out of 13 countries to have a third-level qualification,” Mr Nugent added.

Despite this, the likelihood that those graduates to find high-end employment fell most in Ireland between 2005 and 2019 from 67pc to 54.5pc.

“[Ireland] is now the second lowest in the sample, behind Spain (51.8pc). Sweden for example, is the top performer with 79.1pc,” Mr Nugent said.

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