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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1997  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/06/1997   
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Contents >> Education >> Attainment: Education and employment

Educational Attainment: Education and employment

In 1996, 42% of those aged 15-64 had post-school qualifications. People with post-school qualifications were more likely to be employed than those without them.

The last 20 years has seen a series of rapid changes to the workplace, both in Australia and in many other countries. Increasing use of technology and other changes (such as tariff reductions, industrial relations reforms and the internationalisation of product markets) have been factors underpinning changes to the overall occupational structure of the labour force. These changes have manifested themselves in a shift towards the service sector and away from manufacturing and production industries. (see Australian Social Trends 1997, Changing industries, changing jobs).

Changes in the level of demand for particular occupations have been a major cause of the increased levels of unemployment, especially for people with few skills or those whose qualifications no longer match labour market needs. These shifts and changes have increased the demand for trained employees, with the skills to perform a wide variety of tasks.

One response to the more competitive labour market has been an increased participation in post-school education, and this increase has not been limited to young people who have just left secondary education. Throughout their lives, people, especially women, are increasingly participating in post-school education either to increase their existing skill level or to retrain for a new job. This trend has been supported by the expansion of the higher education system especially since the late 1980s. Some employers encourage their staff to study by giving them access to paid study leave and other assistance, as well as providing in-house training programs (see Australian Social Trends 1995, Employee training).

The skill level of the population has been further bolstered by the intake of skilled migrants. Among migrants aged 18 and over who arrived in Australia between 1971 and 1993, almost half (49%) arrived with post- school qualifications (see Australian Social Trends 1996, Migrants and education).

The upshot of these trends is that the proportion of people aged 15-64 who have post-school qualifications has increased from 37% in 1986 to 42% in 1996. It is likely that this increase would have been somewhat higher if the classification of qualifications used to measure these changes had remained the same over the decade. In 1993, courses of less than one semester in duration ceased to be counted as post-school qualifications.


Post-school qualifications

Post-school qualifications are recognised educational qualifications gained by a person after leaving school such as a trade qualification, certificate, diploma or degree.

This review uses data from a supplementary survey run in association with the May 1996 labour force survey. Information was collected about the educational attainment and transition from education to work of people aged 15-64.

Following the introduction of the ABS Classification of Qualifications (ABSCQ) in 1993, courses of less than one semester in duration ceased being counted as post-school qualifications.


Post-school qualifications
While over 40% of people aged 15-64 had post-school qualifications in 1996, the proportion was not the same for all age groups. People in older age groups were less likely to hold post-school qualifications than people aged 25-44. In 1996, 37% of people aged 55-64 had post-school qualifications compared to 50% of those aged 25-34 and 52% of those aged 35-44. These differences are related to factors such as access to education in the past as well as changes in industry structure and the skill requirements of occupations.

Men aged 15-64 are more likely than women to hold post-school qualifications. In 1996, 47% of males had a post-school qualification compared to 37% of females. This may be due to greater opportunities for men in areas requiring skilled vocational qualifications. It may also be related to women's greater responsibility for child-rearing which acts to hinder them from pursuing further education. The difference between men and women is highest among those in the older age groups. This reflects the fact that earlier generations of women (those reaching adulthood in the 1950s and 1960s) were less likely to undertake post-school education or enter the labour force. This pattern, however, has changed. Among young people, women are more likely than men to have a post-school qualification. In 1996, 43% of women aged 20-24 held a post-school qualification, compared to 39% of men the same age.

PROPORTION OF PEOPLE WITH POST-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS(a)(b)


    (a) Data refers to May each year except 1986-88 which refers to February.
    (b) Break in series in 1993 (see "Post-school qualifications" definition box above).
    Source: Transition from Education to Work, Australia (cat. no. 6227.0).

PROPORTION OF PEOPLE WITH POST-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS, 1996

Men
Women
Total
Age group (years)
%
%
%

15-19
3.5
4.7
4.1
20-24
38.6
42.7
40.6
25-34
54.4
45.9
50.1
35-44
58.5
46.1
52.2
45-54
54.3
37.8
46.2
55-64
47.3
26.9
37.1
Total
47.1
37.4
42.3

Source: Transition from Education to Work, Australia (cat. no. 6227.0).


Field of study
In 1996, the most common fields of study among all people who had post-school qualifications were engineering (31%) and business and administration (21%).

There are differences between men and women in the type of qualification gained and field of study. Among men, the most common fields in which qualifications were held were engineering (52% compared to 4% for women), followed by business and administration (13%) and society and culture (9%). Among women, the most common fields were business and administration (31%), followed by health (20%) and education (16%). Among people with post- school qualifications, men were also more likely than women to have skilled vocational qualifications such as trade certificates (49% compared to 14%). This difference may reflect the gender segregation in occupations, as men are more likely than women to work in industries such as manufacturing, construction and mining, which require skilled vocational training (see Australian Social Trends 1994, Gender differences in higher education).

The fields in which people undertake study have been changing over time in response to changes in the workplace. For example, between 1987 and 1996 the number of higher education students studying business administration and economics increased by 98%, and the number studying arts, humanities and social sciences increased by 53%. Meanwhile, the number studying education fell by 2%.1

MAIN FIELD OF QUALIFICATION(a), 1996

Men
Women
Total
Field of qualification
%
%
%

Engineering, architecture and building
52.0
4.2
30.9
Business and administration
13.0
31.4
21.1
Health
3.8
20.2
11.0
Society and culture
8.8
13.8
11.0
Education
4.8
16.4
9.9
Natural and physical sciences
6.5
4.9
5.8
Agriculture and related fields
3.7
1.0
2.5
Miscellaneous fields
7.4
8.1
7.7
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Refers to the main field of study of those who have a post-school qualification.

Source: Transition from Education to Work (unpublished data).


Job search experience
As might be expected, highly qualified people tend to have better opportunities for finding work than those with no qualifications. This is evident when comparing differences in duration of unemployment by qualification level. In 1996 the average duration of unemployment was 35 weeks for those with a degree or higher and 38 weeks for those with a diploma. The average duration of unemployment for those who did not complete the highest level of secondary school was 60 weeks.

People with skilled or basic vocational qualifications had slightly longer durations of unemployment (47 and 49 weeks, respectively) than those who had only completed the highest level of secondary school (42 weeks). This is most likely because those who completed their schooling would have included recent school leavers who had only been in the labour force for a short time. Nonetheless, both of these groups still had shorter durations of unemployment than those who did not complete the highest level of secondary school.

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT AND EMPLOYMENT EXPERIENCE, 1996

Proportion employed
Unemployment rate
Mean duration of unemployment
Educational attainment
%
%
weeks

Degree or higher
84.6
3.8
35.4
Diploma
79.5
5.2
37.5
Skilled vocational
82.4
5.5
46.9
Basic vocational
69.4
8.6
49.1
Completed secondary school
68.2
10.0
42.0
Did not complete secondary school
59.0
11.4
59.6
Total(a)
70.3
8.1
48.4

(a) Includes people who never attended school.

Source: Transition from Education to Work, Australia (cat. no. 6227.0).


Attachment to the labour force
In 1996 employment was highest among those with a degree or higher (85%), followed by those with a skilled vocational qualification (82%) and those with a diploma (80%). Excluding students still at school, employment was lowest for those who did not complete secondary school (59%).

Differences in employment levels among groups according to their level of education reflects the link between education and work. This relationship is even more evident when seen in terms of the educational attainment of people according to their level of attachment to the labour force.

In 1996, 48% of people in the labour force had post-school qualifications, compared to 25% of those not in the labour force. These differences are largely explained by the fact that groups who are less likely to have post-school qualifications (such as full-time students, older women and people aged 55-64 who include early retirees) are also less likely to be employed or looking for work.

Among those in the labour force, people working full time were more likely to have post-school qualifications than those working part time, while unemployed people were least likely to have post-school qualifications. The proportions of people with post-school qualifications differed substantially between these groups. In 1996, 54% of people aged 15-64 working full time had post-school qualifications compared to 37% of those working part time. This difference is partly explained by the prevalence of students, who have yet to qualify, holding part-time jobs. Another explanation is that industries with lower educational requirements, such as the service and retail industries, offer more part-time work (see Australian Social Trends 1997, Changing industries, changing jobs).

Among those unemployed in 1996, almost two thirds (63%) did not have post-school qualifications. This was particularly true for those who were long-term unemployed (unemployed for 52 weeks or longer). In 1996 there were 203,000 people who were long-term unemployed. 69% of these people did not have post-school qualifications and 50% had not completed the highest level of secondary school.

The association between educational attainment and employment status is particularly apparent among Indigenous people. In June 1994, the unemployment rate among Indigenous people was 38% compared to 10% for the total Australian population. This is partly a reflection of the lower educational attainment of Indigenous people. In 1994, 18% of Indigenous people aged 15-64 who were not attending school had completed a post-school qualification, compared to 41% of all Australians. Indigenous people are also more likely than all Australians to have never attended school (see Australian Social Trends 1996, The education of Indigenous people; Work and Indigenous people).

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT AND LABOUR FORCE STATUS, 1996

Employed
Unemployed


Full time
Part time
Long term
Total
Total in the labour force
Not in the labour force
Total
Educational attainment
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

With post-school qualifications
54.2
36.8
27.8
30.5
48.2
24.9
42.3
Without post-school qualifications(a)
45.7
53.9
69.4
63.1
49.1
62.3
52.5
Still at school(b)
0.0
9.3
2.8
6.4
2.7
12.8
5.3
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Includes people who never attended school.
(b) Includes those attending school who are actively looking for work and are ready to start within two weeks.

Source: Transition from Education to Work, Australia (cat. no. 6227.0).


Industry
The proportion of employed people with post-school qualifications varies according to the industry in which they work and the mix of occupations within each industry. In 1996, the education industry had the highest proportion of people with post-school qualifications (78%). This is related to the types of occupations in this industry group, such as teachers, lecturers etc., all of which have mandatory qualifications. This was followed by electricity, gas and water (67%) and health and community services (66%). Agriculture, forestry and fishing, and retail trade were the industries with the lowest proportion of people with post-school qualifications (31% each).

Trends and projections
The proportion of employed people aged 15-64 with post-school qualifications increased from 45% in 1986 to 50% in 1996. At the same time, the proportion of unemployed people with post-school qualifications increased from 26% to 30% and of those who were not in the labour force, from 22% to 25%. These increases are due to the overall increase in the proportion of people with post-school qualifications, which has raised the skill levels of the population generally.

The structure of the labour force is expected to continue changing over the next decade. Projections prepared by the former Department of Employment, Education and Training indicated that industry growth over the next two decades would continue to be concentrated in the service sector industries, including the finance, health, personal services, retail and accommodation and restaurant industries.2 Employment was projected to grow more slowly or fall in many of the manufacturing industries, in line with trends over the recent past.

At the same time, the proportion of people in the labour force with post-school qualifications was projected to increase over the next 10-15 years. This should occur even if enrolments in higher education remain constant. Much of the increase would result from older people, many of whom are without post-school qualifications, moving into retirement. As a consequence this group will make up a smaller proportion of the labour force.

In addition, many who hold a post-school qualification will need to search for work over a broader range of jobs during the next decade. This will apply particularly to those with a degree in a field of study where demand for graduates decreases.


Endnotes
1 Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs 1996, Selected Higher Education Student Statistics 1996, AGPS, Canberra.

2 Department of Employment, Education and Training 1995, Australia's Workforce 2005: Jobs in the Future, AGPS, Canberra.

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