The Labor Market for Young Spanish University Graduates

The Labor Market for Young Spanish University Graduates

Manuel Salas-Velasco (University of Granada, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2779-5.ch004


A sample of 30,379 Spanish university graduates from the class of 2010, surveyed four years after graduation, informed, on the one hand, if their positions needed a university degree and, on the other hand, what was the most appropriate study area for these positions. This chapter identified four situations of educational mismatch: appropriate match, horizontal mismatch, vertical mismatch, and vertical and horizontal mismatch. By estimating a multinomial logistic regression, this chapter categorized university degrees in each of those four categories. A significant percentage of them ended up in jobs that didn't require a university degree. Only graduates in Medicine increased the probability of being well-matched in their first and current jobs. The results also indicated that a considerable percentage of graduates (30%) who were mismatched in their first job became well-matched in their current employment after moving to a different firm.
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In most economies, there is a connection between the educational attainment of the labor force and the jobs performed by the workers. In general, job titles are defined in terms of educational requirements that coincide with the levels of formal education. Of particular interest is to analyze if the tasks assigned to different positions can be performed effectively with the qualifications provided by the education system or, on the contrary, there is no connection between the contents of the educational curriculum and the contents of the jobs.1 The mismatch between education and employment has been the focus of substantial research, mainly on vertical mismatch or over-education (e.g., Groot & Maassen van den Brink, 2000; McGuinness, 2006). More attention has been paid recently to the so-called horizontal mismatch as well, that is, the mismatch between a worker’s field of study and the content of his/her job (e.g., Robst, 2007; Verhaest et al., 2017). At the university level, a frequently suggested cause is an imbalance between demand and supply. The massive expansion of higher education that has occurred in many countries is often held responsible (Verhaest et al., 2017). Some research has shown that a combination of over-education and field-of-study mismatch is particularly harmful to wages and job satisfaction (e.g., Robst, 2008). However, how such imbalances vary across academic degrees largely remains to be investigated.

This chapter was framed in the existing literature on an educational mismatch, and its main objective was to determine which degree fields (narrow fields of education) were associated with being mismatched in the labor market for higher education graduates in Spain. The degree of fit between the qualifications obtained by graduates and their job characteristics can be considered one important performance indicators of the higher education institutions. More precisely, this chapter addressed the following research questions:

  • 1)

    How appropriate was the first job that graduates obtained after leaving university?

  • 2)

    How suitable was the current job performed four years after graduation?

  • 3)

    Did external labor mobility improve job matching?

Graduate surveys are necessary to answer those questions. They are relatively scarce, but Spain joined other countries that have analyzed the labor insertion of their higher education graduates such as Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, or Canada. This chapter used the first survey of labor insertion of university graduates in Spain (hereafter EILU2014), a nationally representative random sample of Spanish universities and university graduates. A total of 30,379 graduates from the class of 2010 were surveyed four years after graduation.2

This chapter was divided into eight sections besides this introduction. In the second section, this chapter reviewed key aspects of the educational mismatch in the graduate labor market. Next, this chapter identified and defined four types of educational mismatch according to the most appropriate level of formal education and study area to perform a job. In the fourth section, this chapter described the mismatch of Spanish higher education graduates in quantitative terms. The fifth section introduced the econometric methodology for classifying Spanish university degrees in the different categories of matching. The sixth section showed the results of the econometric analysis. Next, this chapter focused on education-job mismatch and external job turnover. Finally, a section of conclusion was presented.

Key Terms in this Chapter

External Labor Mobility: A permanent job separation which involves a change of employer for the worker.

Formal Qualification: The formal outcome (certificate, diploma or title) of an assessment process which is obtained when a competent body determines that an individual has achieved learning outcomes to given standards and/or possesses the necessary competence to do a job in a specific area of work.

Vertical Mismatch: When the worker’s level of education is higher or lower than the required level of education of his/her employment.

Horizontal Educational Mismatch: When the own level of education matches the requirements of the job, but the type of education is not appropriate for the job.

Skills or Competencies: Knowledge, aptitudes, and skills required to perform specific tasks attached to a particular work position.

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