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Don’t celebrate too soon: Degrees don’t mean jobs
In the UK, the struggle for post-university jobs is leading some commentators to identify a ‘lost generation.’ Could the same trend be visible in the Middle East?
July 5, 2010 3:27 by Sam Potter
Some commentators are calling it a lost generation. In the UK, a new study has revealed that the unemployment rate for graduates in the country (those with a university degree) has soared by 25 percent in just one year.
Analysis by the Higher Education Policy Institute of the most recent data available found that graduate unemployment was 14 percent in December 2009 compared with 11.1 percent the previous year. The results also showed that far more male graduates were without jobs than female, leading papers to focus on the gender imbalance.
But the real story is surely the employment prospects of those who have spent years acquiring a higher qualification. They find themselves leaving university, often heavily in debt, and entering a far more competitive work environment than ever before. One report in the UK said the chance of acquiring a graduate position since the recession had slumped to one in 270 in some cases. This statistic suggests that of the vast majority who do find work, many must be taking positions below graduate level.
The UK is not the only country witnessing this phenomenon. In Japan, some universities are reportedly allowing graduates to stay in school an extra year at reduced tuition to avoid entering a volatile labor market. In that country it is considered disastrous to make a bad start to your career.
And it seems we could be witnessing the beginnings of a similar problem in the region. Arab News reported this week on the plight of Khaled, a Master’s graduate returning from studies abroad to Saudi, who has been unable to find work since his return.
Situations like this could have a particularly unpredictable effect in the Middle East, where prospects of achieving a successful marriage and family can depend on career status and promise. In Khaled’s case, the parents of prospective brides were unhappy with his jobless status, and he has put plans for marriage on the backburner.
His story prompted a number of comments on the Arab News website, including one poster who had a Masters in Immunology of Infectious diseases now working in a purchasing department, and a business graduate from Switzerland who had to start in hotel room service.
The general conclusion from all seems to be that, when it comes to finding work, experience matters more than education, and contacts matter more than both. Given the huge percentage of young people in the region, not all of whom will have contacts to help them get ahead, of course, we could soon be faced with a lost generation of our own.