Survey shows a rise in demand for people with degrees

24 April 2013

A national survey of more than 3000 workers aged 20-60 published today shows that across the job market there are now more posts requiring degrees than ever before.

Although unemployment among young graduates has increased during the current recession, jobs requiring degrees at entry level have reached an all-time high – over a quarter of all posts. Those requiring no qualifications fell to historically low levels. The proportion of jobs requiring intermediate qualifications has barely changed.

These are among first findings from the Skills and Employment Survey – led by the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES) based at the Institute of Education, London. The six-yearly survey is funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The survey has been conducted every five or six years since 1986 and shows employment trends over time. Today's report shows that for the first time, more jobs need a degree (rising from 20% in 2006 to 26% in 2012) than need no qualification at all (falling from 28% to 23%).

"Employers in Britain have been slow to take up the swathes of better qualified workers but now they are starting to wake up to the use of graduate labour," said Professor Francis Green of the Institute of Education.

The findings also suggest that fewer graduates are now in jobs for which they are overqualified. "Those who are getting jobs are more likely to be in graduate employment," says Green.

The report, 'Skills at Work in Britain', says: "For the two decades from 1986-2006 the prevalence of over-qualification had been rising, but it fell between 2006 and 2012. Although mismatches remain quite high, this turnaround may signal more effective use of qualifications at work by employers."

While the graduate over-qualification rate fell from 28% to 22%, the graduate unemployment rate rose from 3% to 4%. The net result is that the proportion of graduates who are matched in graduate jobs rose from 69% to 74%.

At the same time, a second study, 'Training in Britain', found that there is now less training than during previous surveys. The proportion of British workers engaged annually in more than 10 hours' training declined from 38% in 2006 to 34% in 2012. This fall is especially concentrated among women.

"Our best estimate is that average training hours per worker per year fell by just under a third (32%)," says Professor Alan Felstead of the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, another member of the research team..

The study also shows that both the quality and the volume of training is greater for those who already have higher levels of education. "This gradation reinforces inequality", says the report.

"It is an all-too-familiar finding that training often reinforces skill differences because it is concentrated among the better educated. Our evidence is that the high educated group receives twice as much long training as lower educated workers," Professor Felstead added.

Editors' notes

Three reports have been published today (April 24): Skills at Work in Britain, Training in Britain and Job Control in Britain. Download them at

Press contacts:
To interview Professor Green or Professor Felstead or for copies of the reports please contact:
Diane Hofkins
James Russell in the IOE press office
020 7911 5556

Skills and Employment Survey, 2012
SES2012 is the sixth in a series of nationally representative sample surveys of individuals in employment aged 20-60 years old (although the 2006 and 2012 surveys additionally sampled those aged 61-65). The numbers of respondents were: 4,047 in the 1986 survey; 3,855 in 1992; 2,467 in 1997; 4,470 in 2001; 7,787 in 2006; and 3,200 in 2012. For each survey, weights were computed to take into account the differential probabilities of sample selection, the over-sampling of certain areas and some small response rate variations between groups (defined by sex, age and occupation). All of the analyses that follow use these weights.

The Skills and Employment Survey is funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills through the ESRC Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES) which acts as the host institution. It is directed by Alan Felstead (Cardiff University and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education) in collaboration with Duncan Gallie at the University of Oxford and Francis Green at the Institute of Education.

The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the Institute's research activity was judged to be internationally significant and over a third was judged to be "world leading". The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its "high quality" initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students "to want to be outstanding teachers". The IOE is a member of the 1994 Group, which brings together 11 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities. More at

Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES)
This ESRC-funded Research Centre investigates the role of lifelong learning in promoting economic competitiveness and social cohesion, and in mediating the interactions between the two. Key areas of research include: i) the social and cultural foundations of learning, knowledge production and transfer, and innovation, within the context of a changing economy, and ii) the effects of knowledge and skill distribution on income equality, social cohesion and competitiveness.
It has a programme of multi-disciplinary and mixed method research which addresses these issues at the level of the individual life course, through studies of city-regions and sectors in the UK, and through comparative analysis across OECD countries. More at

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2012-13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills is a publicly funded, industry led organisation providing strategic leadership on skills and employment issues in the four home nations of the UK. More at