Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2004  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/06/2004   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Education and Training >> Higher education graduates in the labour market

Education & Work: Higher Education Graduates in the Labour Market

In May 2003, the unemployment rate for people aged 20-64 years with higher education qualifications (3%) was half the rate for those without such qualifications (6%).


Higher education qualifications provide a substantial advantage in the labour market. Higher education graduates are less likely to be unemployed and tend to have higher incomes than those without such qualifications. Having a highly educated workforce can also lead to increased productivity and innovation and make Australia more competitive in the global market.(SEE ENDNOTE 1)


HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS

This article draws on data from the 1971-2001 Censuses of Population and Housing, Education and Work, Australia, May 2003 (ABS cat. no. 6227.0) and Job Search Experience, Australia, July 2003 (ABS cat. no. 6222.0).

Higher education qualifications are recognised formal qualifications at the Bachelor degree level and above. These include qualifications obtained at universities and other institutions.

This article focuses on people aged 20-64 years.


PEOPLE WITH HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS

At the time of the 1971 census, 3% of people aged 20-64 years held a higher education qualification. By 2001, this had increased to 16%. Over this period, growth was greater for women (from 2% to 17%) than it was for men (from 4% to 15%).


In 2001, women aged 20-64 years were slightly more likely to hold higher education qualifications than men (17% and 15% respectively). In particular, young women were more likely to have higher education qualifications than men of the same age. For example, among people aged 25-29 years, 25% of women had higher education qualifications, compared with 18% of men in the same age group. On the other hand, among people aged 45 years and over, men were more likely than women to have higher education qualifications.


PEOPLE WITH HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS AS A PROPORTION OF THE POPULATION
GRAPH - PEOPLE WITH HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS AS A PROPORTION OF THE POPULATION




PEOPLE WITH HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS AS A PROPORTION OF AGE GROUPS - 2001
GRAPH - PEOPLE WITH HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS AS A PROPORTION OF AGE GROUPS - 2001



About one in five (21%) people aged 25-29 years held a higher education qualification in 2001, greater than for any other age group. The proportion of people with higher education qualifications decreased with age, to 9% of people aged 60-64 years. The proportion of young people aged 20-24 years with higher education qualifications (12%) was relatively low, as many people in this age group are still studying.

The proportion of people with a higher education qualification varied widely across Australia, from 12% in Tasmania to 31% in the Australian Capital Territory. The high proportion of people with such qualifications in the ACT (almost twice the national figure) carried across all age groups. This partly reflects the industry base in the ACT, where there is a predominance of higher-skilled occupations.

UNEMPLOYMENT RATES(a) FOR PEOPLE AGED 20-64 YEARS
GRAPH - UNEMPLOYMENT RATES(a) FOR PEOPLE AGED 20-64 YEARS


LABOUR MARKET OUTCOMES

Through the two decades to 2003, the unemployment rate for people aged 20-64 years with higher education qualifications was lower than that of people without such qualifications (3% and 6% respectively in May 2003). People with higher education qualifications were also less vulnerable to unemployment during the economic downturn of the early 1990s, when the unemployment rate for people without higher education qualifications increased more rapidly and to a greater extent. Further, the median duration of unemployment for people with higher education qualifications (13 weeks) was much shorter than for those without (18 weeks) in 2003.


In 2003, across all age groups, people with higher education qualifications had lower unemployment rates than those without such qualifications. However, the difference was greatest among people aged 25-34 years (3% compared with 7% for those without higher education qualifications). Although the overall unemployment rate was higher in 2003 for women aged 20-64 years than for men of the same age (6% compared with 5%), women with higher education qualifications were less likely to be unemployed than their male counterparts (3% and 4% respectively).


INDUSTRIES EMPLOYING A HIGH PROPORTION OF PEOPLE WITH HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS - 2003

People with higher education qualifications
%

Education
61.4
Health and community services
38.1
Property and business services
35.4
Government administration & defence
34.9
Finance and insurance
33.2
All industries(a)
23.1

(a) Includes other industries not specified.
Source: Education and Work, Australia, May 2003 (ABS cat. no. 6227.0).
Employed people with higher education qualifications were more likely to be working full-time than those without (78% compared with 73% in May 2003). Of people aged 20-64 years with higher education qualifications, women were more likely than their male counterparts to work part-time (34% compared with 10%). However, they were much less likely to work part-time than women without higher education qualifications (34% compared with 48%). In contrast, young men (aged 20-24 years) with higher education qualifications were more likely to work part-time than those without (29% compared with 26%).

People with higher education qualifications were more likely to work in higher skill occupations than those without. In 2003, four out of five employed people with higher education qualifications worked as Professionals (59%), Associate professionals (12%) or Managers and administrators (11%). These occupations accounted for 82% of workers with higher education qualifications, compared with 28% of those without.

In 2003, employed people aged 20-64 years with higher education qualifications were concentrated in a small number of industries. They represented 23% of workers overall, but 61% of those in the Education sector. This reflects the predominance of people working in this sector in occupations which are classified as higher skill (74%). Other industries employing a high proportion of people with higher education qualifications included Health and community services (38%) and Property and business services (35%).

MEDIAN INCOME(a)
GRAPH - MEDIAN INCOME(a)


INCOME

In 2001, the median gross weekly income of people aged 20-64 years who had higher education qualifications and who were employed full-time was
$1,036. This was almost 50% more than that of full-time workers without higher education qualifications ($727 per week). In 2001, people with higher education qualifications represented about one quarter (22%) of people employed full-time, but almost three-quarters (70%) of those in the highest income bracket ($1,500 or more per week) and less than one-fifth (19%) of people in the lowest income bracket ($300-$399 per week).


PEOPLE WITH HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS AS A PROPORTION OF PEOPLE IN SELECTED INCOME BRACKETS(a) - 2001
GRAPH - PEOPLE WITH HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS AS A PROPORTION OF PEOPLE IN SELECTED INCOME BRACKETS(a) - 2001


RECENT GRADUATES' INCOMES

According to the annual Graduate Destination Survey, conducted by the Graduate Careers Council of Australia, the median annual starting salary of recent bachelor degree graduates (who completed the requirements for their qualification in the year prior to the interview) in their first full-time employment has steadily increased, from $9,600 in 1977 to $37,000 in 2003. In 1977, the median graduate starting salary was the same as average earnings. However, since then average earnings have increased faster than graduate starting salaries, so that in 2003, the median graduate starting salary represented 82% of average earnings.

Incomes varied considerably across fields of study. In 2003, dentistry graduates had the highest median starting salary, at $55,000, with optometry and medicine not far behind. The starting salaries of education and engineering graduates were also above the median (both $40,000). In comparison, the median starting salary of art and design graduates was among the lowest, at $31,000.

One reason for the higher incomes of people with higher education qualifications is their employment in higher-skilled occupations. The median income of Professionals (who accounted for over half of employed people with higher education qualifications) in 2001, was $980 per week, well above the overall median of $721 per week. Similarly, other common occupations of people with higher education qualifications had relatively high incomes. The median income of Managers and administrators (of whom 28% had higher education qualifications) was $992 per week, while for Associate professionals it was $758 per week.

Although people with higher education qualifications have had consistently higher incomes than those without, the relative difference has decreased. In 1976, the median gross weekly income of people with higher education qualifications ($257) was almost double that of those without ($143). In 2001, as noted earlier, it was just under 50% higher.

ENDNOTES

1 Andrews, L and Wu, T 1998, The Labour Market Experience of Higher Education Graduates over the Last Decade, Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Canberra.


Previous PageNext Page

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.