Bachelor degrees don’t deliver like they used to

“Young people aged 25-34 with bachelor degrees are substantially worse off in 2018 than in 2001, particularly in their likelihood of securing a high-scored occupation.”

A Productivity Commission analysis demonstrates that education does not necessarily deliver the work people study for.

Catherine de Fontenay, Bryn Lampe, Jessica Nugent and Patrick Jomini are authors of a PC staff “working paper” (signifying it is even more pointy-headed than PC inquiries) on where young people entering the workforce between 2008 and 2018 ended up.

Insofar as what happens next accords with what happened then, their findings are not great for policies assuming education is an engine of social mobility.

Using PT/FT “as a crude measures of job quality” they find a decline in the quality of jobs for 20-34 year olds 2008-2018.

And new grads who entered the workforce in a lower-scored job in the weak labour market after the GFC are likely to stay in the category.

“The growth in the number of jobs in higher-scored occupations was not large enough to absorb the increased supply of highly educated workers. A person looking for a high-scored occupation in 2018 may have faced a more competitive labour market, and therefore was more likely to end up in a lower-scored occupation than they would have in 2001,” the authors state.

It’s not bad for older graduates, “35-54 year olds in high-scored occupations appear to have been shielded from competition, maybe by virtue of incumbency: there is no noticeable decline in their occupational scores.”

But overall, “the labour demand did not adjust to the mix of skills in the market,” they suggest.