Graduate Blog

NUS Warn Graduates – Don’t Get Stuck in “Underemployment”

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barmanAs the recession took grip many graduates were “dumbing” themselves down in order to secure paid work; but in a study commissioned by the NUS (National Union of Students) there are stark warnings for graduates not to become stuck in these underemployed positions.

The study conducted by the New Economics Foundation shows that 25% of those who “dumb” themselves down and get non-graduate jobs are finding they’re still in a similar position up to three and a half years later. These non-graduate jobs include catering, retail and construction.

The research also shows a strong correlation at the opposite end of scale with those who manage to secure a graduate position within 6 months of leaving university, still being in a graduate job 3 years later.

A graduate would be classed as underemployed if they were wanting to work in a job that required higher skills or had longer hours. The report also suggested that the underemployment that is found within graduates will probably continue for a while yet as the prospects of high-ranked jobs and low-paid jobs are improving, but those roles in the middle (where a graduate would slot in) remain few and far between. Five years ago 2.3 million graduates were in this category; today this figure has reached 3.3 million.

The report suggested: “Study leavers face a perfect storm…Underlying fractures in the labour market, such as pay polarisation, have surfaced.

“Even those with good graduate degrees are facing months of unemployment or free interning in order to gain access to paid work. Those with no or few qualifications are being left out in the cold.”

What’s more, those who are leaving university now are faced with more debt as tuition fees have risen, suggesting their years of hardship will be even longer.

“Study leavers face a rude awakening,” the report continues. “Some will see low returns, at least in the short to medium term, to the personal and financial investment they have made in their education.

“Intense competition in the labour market has created a bumping-down effect where graduates are working in lower-skilled jobs and those who would have formerly taken these positions are further squeezed out of the labour market.

“While the situation seems easier for those graduating from Russell Group universities, the conditions are not ideal for anyone.”

Furthermore, the report also found that employees are increasingly being asked to take on a “zero hour” contract, meaning, they have to be ready to work but there isn’t a guarantee that there will be any work for them.

“Graduates are having difficulty getting traditional graduate jobs,” commented Liam Burns, president of the NUS. “We’re not saying there is no added value in getting a degree but this shows that the idea that a degree is a golden ticket to good, well-paid employment is not true.”

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