Fifth of graduates earn less than A Level students

25 August 2011

A significant proportion of university graduates are on lower salaries than those who have just completed A Level or equivalent qualifications.

An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report reveals that 20% of employees who have at least a degree earn less than the average salary for those educated only to A Level standard.

The Earnings by Qualification report also reveals that 15% of graduates are on lower salaries than the average for students educated up to GCSE level only. 

More people are now going to university but the number of graduate jobs is not rising by the same proportion. The result is that more graduates end up in lower-skilled jobs.

Read: 10 tips on how to bag a graduate job

Less reward for graduates

In 1993, 68% of graduates worked in high-skilled jobs compared to 57% in 2010.

In spite of these worrying figures, the ONS report shows that overall those with university qualifications still on average earn more than those with fewer qualifications.

The average hourly pay for a graduate in the last quarter of 2010 was £16.10, compared to £10 and £8.68 for A Level and GCSE-only workers respectively.

General secretary for the Trade Union Congress Brendan Barber says studying for a degree "still pays" but adds the financial reward for going to university has lessened since the early 90s: "The recession has hit graduate opportunities badly, the misuse of unpaid graduate interns has become widespread, and the living standards of even those with good qualifications has been squeezed.

"Rather than focusing on austerity, the government needs to boost the economy and create jobs, ensure that education remains affordable, and crackdown on the abuse of interns by fully enforcing the national minimum wage."


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