Reality of gig economy for graduates

Life-long learning may be essential just to have a job, any job

The short-term, contract employment gig economy can mean under-employment and precarious work for highly educated young people, warn Jenny Chesters and Johanna Wyn (Melbourne Graduate School of Education). And the “meaningful” work young people work can come at a price – it’s often in short-term jobs.

Blame the gig economy: “The expansion of higher education during the past few decades has encouraged larger proportions of the population to invest in their futures at the same time that employers have embraced the gig economy. Consequently, fewer full-time permanent jobs are available for the increasing numbers of highly qualified job seekers,” they write in a paper for the Journal of Sociology,

What’s happened: Their qualitative and quantitative analysis of the work-experience of Australians eleven years out from school finds;

* high levels of education provide little protection against insecure work

* occupation was not associated with employment status, suggesting that non-permanent employment occurs across the occupational spectrum

* there is “no association” between education level and a permanent employment with high job satisfaction

* after controlling for level of education, women are less likely than men to have, “secure, meaningful work.”

Bad for educated young people: “For many young adults, attaining their first qualification did not pay off in terms of their expected employment outcomes and their disillusionment with the promises attached to higher levels of education is clear. … Even those with high-level degrees traditionally associated with highly prestigious careers felt betrayed.”

More quals may not work: Chesters and Wyn suggest people studying more in the hope of the job they want can be “chasing rainbows.” Nor do policies focused on job-related courses help. “Exhorting students and tertiary educational institutions to ensure that educational qualifications and skills are attuned more to the ‘future of work’ is also chasing rainbows – the gig economy has eclipsed the idea that there is a linear relationship between education and work.”

So, it’s life-long learning to stay employed: “Rather than chasing rainbows, new labour market entrants may accept that the constant upgrading of educational qualifications is necessary to maintain employment in any form and in any field,” they write