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    Ireland has the most over-qualified employees in EU

    Posted on March 18, 2015 by administrator

    The European Commission is considering a report that shows that one-third (33%) of Ireland’s workers are overqualified for their current jobs. This is the highest level in the European Union and compares with just 14% in Sweden, 17% in France and 18% in Germany and Denmark.

    The study of over-education suggests that we have had far too many people going to third-level colleges and universities for the types of jobs available. This, in turn, boosts the trend for better-educated, younger graduates to emigrate bringing their skills and training overseas.

    The study of ‘Over-education in Europe’ was conducted by Seamus McGuinness, a research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), assisted by economists, Adele Bergin and Adele Whelan. It was done as part of the EU’s Strategic Transitions for Youth Labour programme and will be published shortly.

    Over-education describes the extent to which an individual possesses a level of education in excess of that which is required for their particular job or that is most common among other workers doing the same job.

    Young people with honours degrees working in ‘dead-beat’ call centres or in minimum-wage hospitality jobs has grown in recent years. Many who were encouraged to go to university, especially to do fairly high-points courses, are now in jobs which would at most require a Leaving Cert qualification.
    This weekend Prof McGuinness said that the research shows that over-education for employment is not a new factor in Ireland and that both EU labour force data and OECD education studies show Ireland top of the league. He added it may be influenced by Irish parents pushing teenagers into third-level courses rather than industrial and technical training opportunities.

    It may also reflect a shift over the past 15 years by Vocational Colleges and Institutes of Technology away from work-related courses to more academic options combined with fewer industrial apprenticeship opportunities.

    At an individual level over-education means lower wages, lower levels of job satisfaction and higher levels of job mobility though not necessarily to an improved job match. For the employing firm it results in lower productivity and less contented employees always looking for, if not finding, a better job.

    Prof McGuinness added that over-education in employment is more of a phenomenon for graduates from poorer, or less well-connected, households. Wealthier parents with degrees in Ireland often have connections to ensure that their children get the pick of the better jobs or they have the resources to subsidise them taking unpaid ‘intern’ opportunities.

    He suggested that another factor in Ireland may be a miss-match between third-level courses with the newer jobs coming on stream. Also there could be frictions or information-gaps between education options and the reality of the types of jobs being created.

    Some of our colleges are churning out high-points graduates in astro-physics who end up working in banking and asset-management. Also there was a huge boost in the number of student therapists and nurses up to the health recruitment embargo in 2010 which just fed into youth migration.

    Traditionally, the 26-year-old, with a first class degree in philosophy flipping meat patties in Burger King, was the popular image of ‘over-education’ but this new study shows it is running much deeper. It may be acceptable that the sweet, aspiring actress might work as a café waitress between stage jobs but having a burly molecular scientist working as a pub bouncer, or marshalling taxis at an airport terminal, is probably a waste of resources.

    The problem may be getting worse as more people who cannot get a job, avail of ‘back-to-education’ courses or opt to do masters degrees for a further year or two. Having the “best and brightest in Europe” in dead-end and undemanding jobs is a recipe for serious social problems. It also leads to lower productivity and, in turn, to lower wages.

    It is hard to focus on collecting rubbish bins for Greyhound or stacking warehouse shelves in Ikea when your mind is on comparative international relations or micro-biological organisms. This is the reality for one-third of those now working in Ireland.

    Prof McGuinness noted that “the Inter-cert (now Group-cert) is still the standard qualification for many jobs”, based on the modal or most common education level of current employees in those positions.