Nearly half of recent graduates working in ‘non-graduate’ roles, says ONS

“Why graduating after 2006 sucks.” This was the FT’s Chris Giles’ Twitter soundbite ( on the findings of latest ONS data on the state of the UK graduate labour market in 2013.

Here’s a link to the full ONS report on Graduates in the UK labour market:

The report finds that “nearly half” of recent graduates are to be found in non-graduate roles. And one in three graduates is in a “low-skilled role.”

How does ONS define ‘non-graduate’ roles?

So how does the ONS define “non-graduate” roles? Page 13 of the report has the answers:

Professors Peter Elias and Kate Purcell at the University of Warwick have defined a non-graduate job as one in which the associated tasks do not normally require knowledge and skills developed on a university degree course to enable them to perform these tasks in a competent manner. Examples of non-graduate jobs include receptionists, sales assistants, many types of factory workers, care workers and home carers.

Based on this definition here, the 2013 data on the numbers of graduates in the UK currently:

Using this definition of a non-graduate job and focusing on recent graduates who were employed, the percentage of them who were working in one of these roles has risen from 37% in April to June 2001 to 47% in April to June 2013. Although this time series is variable, an upward trend is evident, particularly since the 2008/09 recession. This may reflect lower demand for graduate skills as well as an increased supply of graduates.

There’s a real treasure-trove of data on the state of the graduate labour market in 2013 here. But not all of it may be welcome news for recent graduates, sadly.

Update: Are we creating a ‘capability surplus’?

“We’re investing in knowledge but not in skills. There is no strategy to harness the capability surplus we’re creating in 18-25s.” This is according to Tim Douglas, in a Twitter response to this post (

Tim continues (

Yes it seems accidental, a bi-product of keeping young people off the streets. No vision at all

What do you make of Tim’s view? Are we at risk of creating a “capability surplus” in the UK? And if so, what’s the best way out of this situation?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s