The past year or so has seen a seemingly unending stream of soul searching about the future of jobs, and especially around the growing reach of automation. What began as largely a blue collar affliction has spread into distinctly white collar work.
Whilst not strictly speaking about automation, a recent paper from the Centre for Global Higher Education explores the outlook for graduate employment. The report examines the changes in supply and demand for graduates across Europe, revealing a mixture of positive and negative developments in the jobs market.
The paper suggests that underemployment, or over-education if you prefer, remains an issue throughout Europe, but especially in southern Europe where it increased. It represents a fundamental imbalance between the supply of graduates and the availability of graduate level jobs.
In every single country studied for the report, the number of graduates was increasing, as was the proportion of the population with degrees. It’s a trend that is likely to continue, despite the number of high-skilled jobs not growing at a similar rate. Indeed, in southern Europe, it’s the number of low-skilled jobs that have grown the most.
This has understandably had a dampening affect on graduate incomes, which declined in southern countries, despite rising in Nordic nations.
Whilst other thinkers have explored at great depth the impact technology and automation might have on white collar work, the report suggests the impact of technology on the labor market remains unclear.
It does suggest, however, that the prevalence of underemployment in the western world will continue to rise in the coming decade, with a potential dampening effect on the higher education market. They do caution however that such changes will not be swift, and will instead unfold over a long time-frame.
“Set against a graduate labour supply which is expected to rise inexorably for the foreseeable future, albeit at an uneven and non-convergent pace across countries, the prospects for a successfully employed and contented graduate workforce in the coming decade look far from rosy,” the authors conclude.