Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Graduate salary figures from the ONS

Is this thing on? 

About time there was some action here, eh? Apart, of course, from all the spammers (this blog gets a lot of spam since I turned the Capcha off).

Anyway, the Stats Office have just produced this examination of earnings at different qualification levels (which includes a download of the actual data, which is interesting). 

Here's how current salaries (at December 2010) progress at the various percentiles by qualification rate.

Graduate earnings have increased by around 56% since 1993 as the proportion of the working population with a degree has gone from 12% to 25%. As a comparison, the proportion of the working population with A-level or equivalent has fallen from 23% to 21% and earnings have gone up by 60%. Hardly an endorsement of the 'there are so many degrees that they don't have any value' argument.

But we need to be cautious about two specific sections of the data. The first is that the figures are not segregated by age. Not surprisingly, with this in mind, it seems that the worst-paid graduates get paid less than the average of people who didn't go to university. 

As the worst-paid graduates are almost all going to be newly-qualified and with little experience of the labour market, it would be extremely odd if they were getting paid more than experienced employees.

The other is the ostensibly-interesting section about skills levels in jobs. This bit concludes that the proportion of graduates working in high-skills jobs has fallen between 1993 and 2010 (although not with much of an effect on wages, which already raises alarm bells).

The Stats Office use a version of the Standard Occupational Classification that has 4 digits, and this is what is used as a basis for classifying jobs into one of the four categories, low, lower-middle, upper-middle and high.

All very interesting, but whilst 4 digit SOC is very good at representing the whole labour market - as, let's not forget, most employees don't have degrees - it's not quite as good at properly covering graduate employment, which tends to be clustered into areas of work that are not differentiated under 4 digit SOC. So, for example, all designers are counted as doing the same job.

For graduate destination data, a 5th digit has been created (and will be created for the upcoming SOC 2010) to better map graduate employment, and as a consequence a skills map that only works on 4 digits is going to lack some nuance. That way we don't have a heating engineer being accorded the same skills level as a skilled metallurgist (or, heavens forfend, that most vital of professionals, a brewer).

So, this is an interesting piece of work examining the range of salaries at a variety of qualification levels. Well worth looking at as long as you're aware of the caveats.