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Global Workforce Too Educated? Higher Education Doesn't Promise Access to Suitable Jobs

First Posted: Nov 17, 2015 03:25 PM EST
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Worldwide, the educational level of individuals populating the global workforce is improving. However, greater access to higher education does not translate to greater access to suitable jobs. Global unemployment remains high.

The Department of Statistics produced the latest edition of the International Labour Organization online multifunctional tool, "Key Indicators of the Labour Market," which links education and access to the labor market. Within the past 15 years, 62 of the 64 nations with available data claimed to see an increase in post-secondary education among those who comprise their labor force. Luxembourg, Russia and Canada saw the biggest increases. Simultaneously, there was a dip in the share of workforce participants with a primary-level education or less.

Game Rules are Changing

Under normal circumstances, workers with higher education benefit from higher earnings and improved working conditions. Nationally and globally, an educated labor force is also linked to greater levels of labor productivity.

Those rules don't necessarily apply anymore. Workers with post-secondary education aren't automatically granted access to better jobs. Also, while educated workers are more likely to be employed in most high-income economies, they're more likely to be unemployed in a low or middle income economy. In fact, they're more likely to be unemployed than laborers with lower levels of education.

"This reflects a mismatch between skilled persons and the number of available jobs matching their competencies and expectations, and unless addressed may work to put a limit on economic growth and development," Rosina Gammarano, from the ILO Department of Statistics, said according to a press release.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published an economic new release in March, stating that occupations with the largest employment in May 2014 were retail salespersons and cashiers. Most of the nation's largest occupations are relatively low-paying, earning between $19,110 and $34,500.

Nurses, STEM Jobs Highest Paying

Approximately 6 percent of the U.S. workforce belong to one the two occupations. Nurses, with an annual mean wage of $69,790, were the only occupation of the top 10 occupations to exceed the average pay of $47,230. The highest paying occupations include chief executives, physicians, nurse anesthetists, petroleum engineers and dentist occupations. Most STEM occupations are also high-earning, as well as management, legal, and computer and mathematical occupations. However, they make up a relatively small portion of the nation's workforce.

The ILO report also offered data on young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) as part of an effort to monitor one of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda goals, which is to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth and employment. Reducing NEETs globally is an important part of achieving that goal.

Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland and other high-income economies severely hit by the global crisis are among the nations that have seen the greatest increase in NEETs. However, NEETs decreased in low-income and upper-middle-income economies. In a majority of developing nations with data, young women NEETs outnumbered young men.

There are other key findings from the report, including data showing the average worker in a high-income nation produces 62 times the annual output of an average worker in a low-income nation, and 10 times that of a typical worker in a middle-income economy. Additionally, 72 percent of the global workers are employed in middle-income economies, 20 percent in high-income nations and 8 percent in low-income economies.

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