Spain Has Highest Proportion of Overqualified Laborers in EU


University students filling in job application forms at the Polytechnic University. The sign in the background says “we’re looking for people like you.”  Photo by Carles Francesc.

Spain Has Highest Proportion of Overqualified Laborers in EU
Nearly a third of college and vocational school graduates have vocations that do not require this level of education; the European average is 19%
El País: España es el país de la UE con más trabajadores sobrecualificados
Juan Antonio Aunión reporting from Madrid December 8, 2011

Spain has a higher proportion of overqualified laborers than any other European Union country; that is to say, 31% of its laborers that have university degrees or superior vocational training are doing work suitable for those without this level of formation; the European average is 19%.

Overqualification is a serious problem that has dogged Spain for years: the education level of its population, most of all its citizens’ degree of university education and superior vocational training, has increased much more quickly than the number of corresponding jobs available in an economy based on construction and services. Between 1999 and 2009, the percentage of Spaniards with higher education increased from 21% to 30%, and among today’s youth the rate is 39%.

After Spain, Ireland (29%) and Cyprus (27%) are the member states with the highest percentage of overqualified laborers age 25-54; on the other end of the spectrum are the Czech Republic and Slovenia (7%), according to a statistical study by Eurostat based on 2008 data. Italy’s rate is 13%; Germany’s and the UK’s 20%; France’s 19%.

Spain was already tabbed in a 2008 EU study based on 2006 data as one of the countries with the most overqualification among those with university diplomas: it was 38%, topped only by Ireland and Estonia. The studies are not exactly comparable, as that one did not differentiate between natives and foreigners, like the more recent one does, but it does signal this is a recurring problem.

In any case, the three years since 2008 have seen intense crisis; it’s not clear how they have affected the overqualification rate in a country that has surpassed 20% general unemployment and 45% youth unemployment. The chair of the Economics Department at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, José García-Montalvo, predicted in 2009 that the overqualification rate could rise above 50%, as many people with low or middling levels of education who have been out of work during the crisis have hit the books again, increasing the public’s education level further though there are no signs of a significant increase in jobs requiring high qualification. The matriculation rate for junior college degrees has grown more than 15% over the last two academic years; university matriculation, in turn, has risen 10%.

Something else that has a great effect on the general overqualification rate is the overqualification rate for foreign laborers; 9 out of every 10 people leaving Spain are foreigners, according to the Immigration Agency. The Eurostat study compares the labor situations of natives and foreigners and finds that in Spain, the overqualification rate among the latter reached 58% in 2008. Only foreign laborers in Greece have it worse (62%).

The differences in overqualification between the two groups are immense in the majority of EU countries. The same goes for the risk-of-poverty rate (18% for natives, 32% for foreigners) and the probability of living in public housing (3% versus 12%).

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