The number of workers who are overqualified for their jobs has soared over the past 30 years, prompting the CIPD to call for an urgent rethink of skills policy, including improvements to careers advice and apprenticeships.
More than a third (36%) of UK graduates are overqualified for their job with an increasing proportion stuck in low-skilled jobs, according to HR’s professional body.
The CIPD’s report on the scale and impact of graduate overqualification examined how graduate outcomes have changed since 1992, and the quality of their jobs.
Its research, together with analysis of official statistics, found a notable increase in the proportion of graduates working in admin and service occupations including: a rise in graduates working as bank or post office clerks (3% in 1992 to 30% in 2022); personal assistants and secretaries (4% to 22%).
It also showed an increase in graduates working as bar staff (3% to 19%) and security guards (2% to 24%) over the same 30-year period.
The CIPD found the proportion of graduates in low or medium-skilled jobs has doubled and that overqualified graduates have lower levels of job and life satisfaction, are less enthusiastic about their work and are more likely to want to quit, compared with graduates in “well-matched” roles.
Lizzie Crowley, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “While graduate-level qualifications are undoubtedly essential in many roles and industries, the significant growth of graduates in non-graduate jobs is damaging for individuals, employers and the economy.
“A growing number of graduates are stuck in low-skilled jobs, while employers find it harder to motivate and retain overqualified graduates, undermining workplace productivity.”
In response, the report concludes there is a need for a major rethink on skills policy, including improvements to the quality of careers advice and guidance in schools. It also calls for reform of the apprenticeship levy, to incentivise employers to provide more apprenticeships to young people, and for a renewed focus on the development of an industrial strategy to create more high-skilled jobs.
The research also found:
- 54% of overqualified graduates report being either very satisfied or satisfied with their current jobs, compared with 72% of well-matched graduates
- 56% of overqualified graduates say they are satisfied with their lives compared with 69% of well-matched graduates
- a quarter (25%) of graduates who feel overqualified say that they are likely, or very likely, to quit their job voluntarily in the next year, compared to 17% of well-matched graduates
- 30% of overqualified graduates earn less than £20,000 per annum, versus 8% of well-matched graduates.
“Successive governments’ focus on boosting the supply of higher-level qualifications to the labour market has failed to create nearly enough of the high-skill, high-wage jobs that the country needs,” added Crowley. “There needs to be a fundamental rethink on UK skills policy as part of a new focus on industrial strategy, to create more high-skilled and quality jobs across the economy.
“In particular we need better careers advice and guidance in schools so young people can make more informed choices about what to study, whether they should go to university or seek an apprenticeship or a vocational qualification.”
Overqualification rates remained relatively stable across most age bands, suggesting that a poor initial match when entering the labour market can have long-term impacts on an individual’s career and income.