Graduate glut spells underused skills and dissatisfaction for many

Shades of grey: Understanding job quality in emerging graduate occupations

From Human Relations

Graduates are taking up jobs that don’t fully use their skills and as a result are causing high turnover for employers, claims this research. The findings raise questions about today’s high throughput in university education. Policy makers in many developed and developing countries envisioned high-value economies supported in part by a highly-skilled and well-paid workforce. As a result, many nations have increased higher education (HE) access, assuming that employers will be able to use this larger bank of skills effectively. However, the number of skilled jobs has not matched the rising number of skilled workers, so that today’s higher qualifications no longer guarantee graduates higher earnings, or further opportunities to use and develop knowledge and skills. Many graduates are now employed in ‘intermediate’ level jobs previously not regarded as graduate jobs. There is now an abundance of evidence that a substantial minority of graduates start their careers in non-graduate low-skill, low-pay occupations. Employment in emerging occupations may imply a step up, but does not compare with traditional graduate

This research forms part of Human Relations special issue on job quality, which features articles, amongst others on, the challenges of job quality, its conceptualization and its impact on individual, firm and national wellbeing, global variations and perceptions, global variations and the relationships between job and work quality.



This article examines job quality for university graduates employed in intermediately skilled (emerging) and traditional graduate occupations. Skills policies largely assume that increasing the supply of skilled labour generates sufficient demand in terms of appropriate jobs, but job quality in emerging occupations and the effects on graduates’ attitudes and well-being have yet to be established. The role of job quality (defined in terms of skills use, job content, job security and pay) was examined in a sample drawn from the 2006 UK Skills Survey. Graduates in emerging occupations reported lower use of ‘graduateness’ skills, job control, opportunities for skill use and pay. In turn, job quality explained lower job satisfaction and organizational commitment. The defining features of a ‘good’ graduate job related to intrinsic job content. The findings highlight the importance of employer practices and skills policies that better utilize and develop the highly skilled workforce.

View the table of contents for this special issue

Read this research for free

Article Details
Okay-Somerville, B., & Scholarios, D. (2013). Shades of grey: Understanding job quality in emerging graduate occupations Human Relations, 66 (4), 555-585 DOI: 10.1177/0018726712465094

This entry was posted in Business & Management, SAGE Insight and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.