Helen Gowing, 26
Academic graduates, percentage of population: 31
25-29 year-old academic graduates, unemployment rate: 1 %
Total unemployment rate: 5,6 %
“I studied for my Bachelor`s degree from 1998 to 2001 in the University of Hertfordshire. The course was called Software Systems for the Arts and Media. During my final year I worked part-time in a company practicing in graphic design, but I quit my job to continue with my Master`s studies.
I graduated in 2002. After that it was difficult to find a full-time job. I worked as a substitute teacher in the university and free-lanced in different projects for about a year. Many of my course mates were in a similar situation. Our course had a very broad spectrum of topics and included for example 3D-imaging, music, graphic design, interactive media and art. Nevertheless, we did not have a specialisation in anything.
It can be hard to find one`s first place of work in the United Kingdom. People stress a lot trying to find a job to match their education, and some get depressed because of constant declining answers to job applications.
It is also challenging to find suitable vacancies. I found my first full-time job with the help of a friend. I worked for a year as a net designer in a company producing solutions for information technology. The work was interesting, but not quite what I wanted.
Nowadays I work as a multimedia designer in a moderate- size company. Actually I got a better job than I originally applied for, so I`m very content with it. The work includes designing multimedia shows and interactive CD-ROMs, but also animations, websites and printed documents. My clients are for the most part firms in the construction industry.
All my jobs have matched my education, but I don`t think that education is essential in this business. The most important assets to have are talent and a good portfolio. I believe, however, that my Master`s degree helps me to distinguish myself from other applicants, as it is more common in here to leave school after Bachelor`s degree. In the future I would like to work in a bigger company and have more to do with film and video.”
Marta Otzet, 31
Communications Manager, Sagrada Familia
Academic graduates, percentage of population: 38
25-29 year-old academic graduates, unemployment rate: 2 %
Total unemployment rate: 8,4 %
“When I was 17 years old I decided I wanted to study acting. My parents did not support that ambition, however, so I ended up studying art history. I studied in the University of Barcelona for four years. My final year I spent in Bologna, Italy, where I specialized in the history of the performing arts.
Art history is a wonderful field to study, but it requires a certain kind of resilience to get a job. Personally I wanted to work in the world of theatre, which I found interesting. It is rewarding to work among culture, but one has to give up certain things at the same time. Several artists are quite despotic, and one often gets a job only for a short period at a time, that is, to put up festivals and to complete short projects. There`s never enough money.
My first job was working with a private collection of my parents` collector friend. The job was not my dream job, but it gave me a start. The cultural society of Barcelona is small, and all jobs are reserved for those with the right kind of connections. Once you get to now one of them, soon you`ll know them all. I try to maintain the contacts I`ve made by sending them e-mail or a Christmas card at least once a year.
In Spain, getting to the work market often means working for a nominal salary in order to gain experience. I had to live with my parents until I was 27 years old, as my monthly income of 400 euros did not cover both the rent and the bills. On the other hand, because of my low wages I have had the possibility to negotiate several other subjects: besides my day job, I finally took up acting classes in a private acting school when I was 24. Nowadays I`m trying to combine my two careers. During the day I give my creativity fully to media and administration; in the evenings I let it loose on the stage.”
Björn Jeffery, 25
Owner and founder of the communications agency Good old
Academic graduates, percentage of population: 42
25-29 year-old academic graduates, unemployment rate: 4,9 %
Total unemployment rate: 4,9 %
“I believe that the most important thing for my career has been that I`ve never been afraid of changing jobs.
I started out working for the local newspaper in my hometown Göteborg when I was still in high school. This was in the middle of the 90`s when media companies first started to glance at the internet world. I worked for the newspaper`s youth site during my school years doing everything from monitoring chat channels to reviewing school lunches.
In 2001 I moved to Lund to study behavioural sciences at the university. But student life was far too slow for me and after a year I applied for and got a job at the Swedish television. My job was to develop an internet community connected to a TV-show for teenagers. I did it for six months but then moved on to work for a newspaper in Malmö. There I worked on a project to redesign their website and also as an editor. But in 2005 I felt that my job wasn`t exciting enough. I quit.
Today I have my own firm that works with strategies, concepts and development in digital media.
When I look back on my studies I realise there is no formal education that could have prepared me for the job I have today. Actually, I don`t think that anyone in my company has a university degree – that is probably the least important thing when I recruit new people.
One reason behind today`s high rates of unemployment is that university does not prepare students for the new demands of the working life. Companies are also unable to connect with the unemployed in Sweden. Only a few companies search people by advertisements today. It is much easier to hire people based on recommendations rather than by reading 300 applications.”
Goran Mak, 26
Junior Account Manager, Erste Bank
Students enrolled in tertiary education in 2005: 17 391
Unemployment rate of academic graduates: 3,8 %
Total unemployment rate: 17,9 % (crostat 2006)
“On my first day at work I was afraid and confused. wondered whether I was qualified enough to do the job and whether I could fulfil the wishes of my employer. Then a thought came to me: as I was the one chosen in a three-stage job interview among dozens of other applicants, I was definitely in the right place.
I have now worked for six months in Erste Bank, one of the largest banks in Croatia. I studied financing in the University of Zagreb. After graduation, I immediately began sending applications to banks that knew. I wanted a job that could give me a steady income and an opportunity to proceed in my career to leading positions. After a week, I had already received a phone call from ten different banks.
So it was easy for me to get a job. A university degree is highly appreciated in Croatia, and there is competition to get workers both in financing as well as in technology and traditional craftsmanship. On the other hand arts students, for example, have difficulties finding a place match their education. A friend of mine studied history and the Russian language. He now works in a photo shop, and receives a lousy salary.
In practice my job is to grant finances to different major projects, for example construction plans. My education did not actually prepare me for this kind work, though. I have benefited most from working actively in student organizations, where I`ve got experience in stitching together different kinds of plans and raising funds for them.
In retrospect, it was unnecessary to be uncertain one`s abilities in coping with the job`s demands. My job is challenging, but I`m doing well and I`m really content with the work. If I work hard I could maybe be promoted in two or three years. My only fear is getting sick and not being able to support myself anymore.
Maria GurdumbÃ¡, 30
Research Assistant in the Finnish Institute in Athens
Academic graduates, percentage of population: 24
25-29 year-old academic graduates, unemployment rate: 13 %
Total unemployment rate: 14 %
“When I began to study archaeology in the university of Athens, I thought that archaeologists would dig up the fabulous past buried deep in the ground. After a few years I began to doubt whether I`d made the right choice. One didn`t get to work on the field without the right kind of connections, and it was doubtful whether I was ever going to get a job in the future.
I graduated in the recommended four years and began looking for work. After a year I was still without a job, but I managed to get into a half-year computer course arranged by the employment office. I was even paid a nominal salary.
I got my current job at the Finnish Institute in Athens by replying to an advertisement seeking an archaeologist with English and computer skills. First I got the job for a year, with the employment agency paying my salary. After a year I was offered first a temporary post of a research assistant in one of the Institute`s projects and quite soon afterwards a permanent job. I`m still working here.
Academic unemployment is a current issue in Greece. People protest against it or worry about it. New statistics of unemployment are published every day.
Various new academic professorships have been founded recently in Greece. This has further increased the amount of graduates. For example in the 1990`s it was possible to study archaeology only in Athens and in Thessaloniki, the second largest city of Greece. Nowadays you can study it anywhere in the country. There are simply too many academic graduates in comparison to the available jobs.
In the discussion concerning academic unemployment it is important to ask where all this is leading to, especially with constant or even increasing amounts of academic graduates in the future. Both academic students and their parents are demanding an answer.
In my life many things have changed since I started a family. I want to spend as much time as possible with my one-year-old daughter. When I was younger, I wondered why older people babbled about such things. Nowadays I`ve begun to do that myself. And that`s just fine.”
Marcin Wojtaszek, 26
Marketing Manager for a hotel company
Academic graduates, percentage of population: 23
25-29 year-old academic graduates, unemployment rate: 2,5 %
Total unemployment rate: 14 %
“When I enrolled into the School of Economics in Katowice, I followed the Polish tradition of folding my course book`s last page in half to guarantee success in my studies. The trick worked: I graduated in four and a half years and got my Master`s degree.
I financed my studies by working shifts as a receptionist in a hotel. My first job was very hard to find. I spent a whole desperate week calling every kind of firm and sending numerous applications. Finally I got a reply.
During my final year I changed jobs. Now, two years after graduation, I work as a Marketing Manager for the same firm.
The most obvious benefit of getting a Master`s degree was the effect it had on one`s salary: a 100 percent raise. In Poland people fresh out of school make poor money, and it is nearly impossible to find a job without previous experience. After our country joined the European Union, many of my friends left to work abroad as for example bartenders. I`m also planning on moving to Norway someday in the future. Yet I want to work in a field related to my education, not simply stare at the numbers on my pay cheque.
Tourism is a business I love. After high school I did not stop to pound on the labour market situation for a second, I just wanted to study what I liked. If I had a fresh start, I would do the same thing again and get exactly the same degree. The future is bright as I see it. The business is developing fast and in many directions, so there`s undoubtedly always work in this field.
Most of my friends who graduated at the same time have also launched their careers – even the girls who were pregnant at the time our studies ended. Unfortunately it still seems to be easier for a man to get a steady job.”
Aleksei BaÅ¾enov, 28
Fashion Portal Manager
St. Petersburg, Russia
Academic graduates, percentage of population: 54
Total unemployment rate: 7,1 %
“I began my studies of Russian language and literature in the State University of St. Petersburg in 1995. I chose the field because at school my Russian teacher was very inspiring. I got my Master`s degree in 2001, and continued with graduate studies in art history. I formed a plan for my Doctor`s thesis, but did not go on with it, however. I understood that I simply wanted to make music.
Since the beginning of my studies it was clear to me that I`d never work as a teacher. Of the 200 people studying in the faculty at the same time, only two or three are working in a job corresponding to their education, that is, working as a teacher or a journalist. Even they have additional jobs in some field related to marketing, as in Russia today it is simply not possible to make a living as a teacher. A novice teacher makes about 6 000 roubles (approximately 180 euros) a month.
After graduation I worked for six months in my friend`s firm that makes furniture and decorative items. It was the first real job I had and I got it with connections. Actually nearly everything in Russia works with connections.
After that I worked as a fundraiser in a citizens` organization working with children and young people with different types of developmental disturbances. I also worked as a copywriter for a website. That job was to the day my only job corresponding to my education in any way.
In June my own project, a fashion portal called be-in.ru, was launched in the internet. It is a site or, more precisely, a search engine for fashion where the user can study the collections of clothing stores in St. Petersburg. We already have 15 employees. In addition to being the manager of the site, I`m also one of its financers.
I was never interested in marketing or money. I`m more into art, beauty and interesting ideas. After graduating I made music, and all my other jobs have only supported me financially. The project be-in.ru and its web magazine give me a possibility to implement my ideas, to write about and be a part of any current issues of fashion and culture in St. Petersburg.
Even though I`m not currently working in the field of my education, my studies have still benefited me in every way.
The university one goes to is also significant. The State University of St. Petersburg is one of the best and most famous in all of Russia. Once you graduate from there, you`ll get a job quite easily.”
Academic Degree but no Job
– Huge variations in academic unemployment rates between European countries. Greeks have it worst, Brits do way better.
What does a Master of Science in Engineering say to his Arts student friend when they see each other after a long time? Presumably, “A Big Mac with fries, please.”
This may be an old joke, but it is getting more and more popular in conversations among people spending time together in university cafes and academic get-togethers. According to a common sigh heard in Finnish campuses, a Master`s degree or even a PhD does not necessarily guarantee a job – or, at least one to match your education.
True. Yet even a quick glance abroad shows us that the situation is worse in many other European countries.
According to the Ministry of Labour 8 200 people with upper academic degrees were unemployed in Finland in October 2006. The number is relatively small, only approximately four percent of all unemployed.
Yet the amount of unemployed PhD holders has nearly doubled since 2001. According to newly released report Five Years in the Working Life by Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals, it is also increasingly dif- ficult for people with a Bachelor`s or Master`s degree to find work after graduation, whereas persons with a lower degree do better than before.
Academic unemployment in Finland affects most the graduates of Arts, Arts and crafts and Sciences. A Master of Arts is often offered nothing else but a pile of grant applications and an endless cluster of short-term projects.
On the other hand, medical doctors, pedagogs and law graduates are quite sure to find a job – a Doctor of medicine fresh out of school is ten times less likely to end up unemployed than a humanist.
So, this is the way the story goes here in Finland. How about other countries?
According to statistics provided by Eurostat, an average academic unemployment rate in the EU is 5,5 percent. Average rate of total unemployment is higher, being nearly eight.
Yet the amounts of academic people without a job vary greatly according to the country, and in some nations they even exceed those of persons with only an intermediate- level degree.
OECD statistics based on figures of 2004 indicate that the situation is at its worst in Greece, where approximately 13 percent of academic graduates between 25 and 29 years of age are unemployed and not participating in further training. The figures are high also in Italy (over 10 %) and in France (nearly 7 %). In Hungary and the United Kingdom, on the other hand, a university degree is almost certain to guarantee a job.
The differences in academic unemployment in Europe are by far explained by variation in the commercial and industrial lives of the countries.
“For example Greece has not yet invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology. Traditionally it has concentrated on industry and tourism”, says Labour market counsellor Eero Polus from the Ministry of Labour.
More and more Greeks are nevertheless graduating from universities, and that is why academic unemployment in Greece is even higher than basic-level education unemployment.
“They are now going through a transition phase, and I predict the situation to be different already in a few years”, Polus says. In Poland, on the other hand, it would seem imperative to have a university degree in order to get any job at all. 25- to 29- year-olds with just basic education have a soaring unemployment figure of 33 percent according to the OECD, whereas only 2,5 percent of academic graduates haven`t found employment yet.
The situation in Poland is probably also temporary. People have been enrolled into universities in great numbers because of the socialist tradition, and after the collapse of the system this trend has even increased.
The once socialist regime was nevertheless not able to guarantee work matching one`s education. People failed to see this until in the 1990`s, and the change is still incomplete.
Evaluating educational systems in OECD countries, the Poland Report finds that the academic education is still often seen as personal capital in Poland, not so much as a power guaranteeing social and economical growth and development of the country.
What about our third country with high unemployment figures, Italy?
According to OECD statistics, almost 13 percent of the country`s 25- to 29-yearold academic graduates are without work. Intermediate-level education is nearly five percent more likely to guarantee a job.
“Let`s say that Italy is somewhat left behind in this development of technology. It is a country of tourism, fashion and technological industry, so to speak. These are fields in which it is not that important to have an academic degree”, Polus thinks.
“Yet education in Italy is truly available and there is a supply of academic people for labour markets. Italy has an old and comprehensive network of universities: you just name your field and they`ll provide the Doctor.”
In the United Kingdom, academic unemployment rates of the newly gratuated are much lower than in Italy and even lower than in Finland, less than one percent. The reason to this may lay, according to Polus, in the labour market system: emphasis is put on the activation of the unemployed.
“And naturally they have all the markets around the world at their disposal. The language makes it easier to find a job: if you can`t get one in your own country, some foreign country is sure to offer one.”
As to the Hungarian figures of less than one percent, Polus again predicts the effect of development in industry and commerce.
“Hungary is nowadays one of the developing areas in information technology in Europe. Lately new jobs have been created to employ effectively at least persons with a lower university degree.”
So, it seems that having an academic degree may well be a promise of a job in one part of Europe but much less so in another. Yet, or maybe just because of that fact, academic unemployment is not seen as a major problem in Europe. For example EU employment reports do not mention academic unemployment of the young as a separate issue. Instead the report puts emphasis on correlation between the level of one`s education and the possibilities of finding employment.
“One could indeed say that this is not a major issue, as this problem is not as prominent as for example low-skilled unemployment. Statistics show a clear correlation between a person`s educational level and the probability of his/her activeness in the labour market in one way or another. What`s crucial in this respect is naturally the compatibility of one`s job with their education, and this demand is not necessarily always met”, Polus says.
Low-income trades have a priority also in OECD reports. The worries of academic people are being noticed, though. The organization is collecting nationwide academic education evaluation reports as we speak. In these, also the issue of employment is brought up.
A report evaluating the Finnish educational system was published in September. It finds our country rather exemplary in academic employment rates. In spite of this, students` organizations, labour unions like Akava and even commerce and trade representatives are demanding a cut in enrolment rates on specific fields of education to guarantee quality of training as well as better availability of work. What they worry about is the well-known mantra of the society needing people qualified in traditional craftsmanship and, above all, in nursing and social services as the age structure changes. This would mean a lesser need of theoretically oriented Masters and Doctors.
“Based on this, we have formulated different kinds of life-long learning systems. The aim is to render one`s educational choices, made at a young age, less final in case they prove wrong. One could add to his or her skills by participating in various kinds of further training”, Polus says.
He also reminds of the Bologna Process, unifying the structures of higher education in Europe. In the future, a degree received in any EU country is accepted in other members of the union. Thus it is easier to apply for a job abroad.
“However, emigration because of unemployment happens on a very small scale nowadays. Only one to one and a half percent of the European work force seek work abroad per year.