Thursday , 18 July 2024

Over-education and underemployment

The present generation is facing an unprecedented problem of mismatch between over-education and underemployment where even an advanced degree cannot protect some young graduates from tumbling down the economic ladder.

By being overqualified they become more vulnerable of being turned down. It is indeed an aberration that going to good educational institutions with lot of sacrifices in terms of time and money ends up in being underemployed, if not unemployed. Graduate unemployment and underemployment are real issues facing today’s youth, both in developed and developing countries.

No opportunities for undergraduates

« Younger people may find they never get a good start to their career. Forced to take jobs that are beneath their skills… »

Underemployment is a situation when workers’ jobs do not use all their skills, education, or availability to work. There are two types of underemployment: visible and invisible. Visible underemployment includes employees who are working fewer hours than is typical in their field. They are willing and able to work more hours, but cannot get full-time employment. They often work two part-time jobs, just to make ends meet. Invisible underemployment includes workers in full-time jobs that do not use all their skills. Underemployment also includes those who work full-time but live below the poverty level.

The overeducated youth population presents a trickle-down underemployment predicament. Postgraduates are securing undergraduate jobs beneath their qualifications; meanwhile, undergraduates are losing out on these jobs to their overqualified counterparts and finding themselves in positions that only require a high school education.

Hordes of undergraduates are completing university courses and going out into the big wide world of work, only to find there are no opportunities for them to do what they are qualified to do. As a result, many are returning to university to complete even higher degrees in order to obtain jobs that only require an undergraduate degree. Younger people may find they never get a good start to their career. Forced to take jobs that are beneath their skills, they do not get on the right career track. They miss the mentoring needed to get increased responsibility that would update their skills. By the time they overcome the missing gaps, they find themselves competing with a new batch of graduates for entry-level positions in their fields.

The conventional wisdom that more education bears fruit in the labor market is now being questioned. For people with masters and even doctoral degrees, long-term unemployment is especially insidious. Foreclosure and evaporated savings push them out of the middle class, and some just keep falling. Most of these people in this long-term unemployed category are experiencing downward financial mobility.

The financial consequences of long-term unemployment are hugely significant and very painful. Being underemployed often equates to being underpaid. So after studying hard at university for years, many young people, particularly in America – currently drifting between casual and part time service-industry jobs that offer little stability or security – are living on less, and will soon have to face rising student loan debts. The effects of underemployment are similar to those of unemployment.  Both of them cause higher poverty levels. Without adequate income, families don’t buy as much. That reduces consumer demand, slowing business growth. As a result, the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lower, as is job growth. It’s a vicious, downward spiral.

Political connections

Reclaiming professional and financial stability is a long journey for the underemployed. If underemployment continues, workers lose the ability to update their skills with on-the-job training. They may not be able to return to their former field without training. Some retrain for different fields, while other downscale their lifestyle and accept long-term underemployment.

In emerging economies, rising joblessness among new university graduates is creating an army of educated unemployed that some fear could destabilize these huge economies. Both India and China have experienced a higher education revolution in the past decade, with the number of young people completing university degrees rising from a few hundred thousand a year to many millions. Dramatic expansion of university education should have provided new graduates with opportunities unheard of in their parents’ generation. Instead, with an alarming rise in the number of unemployed and under-employed graduates, a large group of educated young people are becoming alienated, unable to become part of the growing middle class. This has created a generation of bored young graduates, marking time and detached from the world. As if, waiting has become a profession for these young people. There is a widespread view among the “time pass” youth that jobs only go to those with political connections, rather than qualifications or skills. There are some who see the unfulfilled aspirations as a source for fueling violence and destructive politics. In extreme cases, youth underemployment can lead to civil unrest and violence. For example, one fourth of all young people were unemployed in the Middle East, leading to the Arab Spring.



Career-guidance is essential

While it is the responsibility of the educational authorities to provide guidance and take remedial measure, the Faculty members are the most important source of information about graduate programme, and many of them should be better informed about the realities of their profession today. However, many academics are motivated to reproduce themselves professionally because they see students as their captive clientele. With little or no experience of realities outside the campus, they regard a graduate-school placement as an accomplishment or end-goal. It is essential that students seek independent counselling from career services about their options apart from graduate school. Undergraduates should have access to accurate, realistic, and up-to-date advice that is focused on their interests rather than the needs of universities wedded to romantic notions about the life on the campus.


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