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Myth: The higher educated push the lower educated from the labour market

Myth: The higher educated push the lower educated from the labour market

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

Myth Busters

The number of people with a higher professional or university education has increased enormously in the last decade. Whereas in the nineteen-fifties, a mere 5 per cent went to university or a school of higher education, now that is 50 per cent, says Wim Groot, professor of Health Economics and professor of Evidence Based Education. “In the past, talented youths from the lower classes were given very few chances. I once did research into pupils living in the province of Brabant – mostly from rural areas – who were in their last year of primary school in 1953. Thirty years later, in 1983, it appeared that for many of those children ULO (advanced Primary education) and MULO (advanced elementary education) - the precursors for VMBO (lower secondary professional education) and HAVO (higher general secondary education) – followed by teachers’ training college, were the highest attainable levels. A change took place in the nineteen-sixties and youths who were intelligent chose academic studies.”

Even though the number of higher educated has grown explosively, Groot sees few graduates working under their ability levels, thus taking jobs from those with an intermediate vocational education. “I did a lot of research into ‘overeducation’. You come across it especially in those who are recently graduated with hardly any experience. At Health Sciences, for example, you see that half of the recently graduated do not end up in an academic position, but this is straightened out after a while. It is often a temporary matter and always the result of a lack of experience, lack of social skills or other forms of human capital.”

The phenomenon of displacement on the labour market has not increased with the growth in the number of higher educated, says Groot. “Although you do see an increase during recessions, but this trend disappears as soon as the economy picks up again.”

At the moment, Groot is working on a research project on “mismatch on the labour market”. What appears to be the case: “Employers are more and more satisfied with their employees' qualifications.” But how can this be compatible with the constant complaining by the employers that study programmes don't sufficiently link up with the demand on the labour market? “There will always be complaints: if a student is given a lot of theory, you hear moans about the fact that he or she can't hold a hammer. If there is a lot of emphasis on the practical side, then the theory is lacking. It is much more surprising that it almost always works out well. Many youths – from lower secondary professional education - have to choose a profession when they are sixteen, without fully knowing what it entails. Approximately 95 per cent end up doing well. We are inclined to look at occupational groups that don't do well, such as the graduates from art studies, but that is a very small part of the total.”

Mythbusters is a series in which academics shoot down popular myths on complex topics

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