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Youth employment, overqualification and ‘overeducation’

by on September 24, 2015

This article on the EurActiv website offers a headline which (playfully?) defines ‘overeducation’ as ‘when fish and chips are served by historians’. It cites a new research project by STYLE, the Strategic Transitions for Youth Labour in Europe, which reports that in some EU countries, up to one-third of young people aged 18-25 are overqualified for their jobs. Many of them are highly educated and multilingual, with university degrees, and are taking on low-paid jobs (serving fish and chips) to avoid unemployment.

The rates of overqualification vary considerably between EU countries. The highest level is in Ireland where 33% of young people are overqualified for their jobs, followed by Cyprus (31%) and Spain (30%). The lowest rates (below 10%) are in Slovenia and Slovakia.

What I think is interesting is the conflation of overqualification (which I assume is based on the extent to which these younger workers are doing jobs which do not require the level of qualification that they possess) and overeducation. The latter seems a much more problematic term particularly given uncertain labour markets, job precariarity, longer working lives, and freedom of movement within the EU. Who is it can say that anyone (of any age) is overeducated? Indeed, can you ever have too much education?

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