Unmet demand for grads by 2050

There will be 5.8 million more jobs requiring higher education by 2050, according to research commissioned for the Universities Accord review – unless climate change or labour market dynamics result in a radical shift in hiring practices.

The estimate is in a reported from consultants Oxford Economics, released by the Commonwealth Department of Education, in December (five months after it was filed).

This will more than double the demand for degree qualified workers, to a total of 10.8 million jobs in 26 years’ time,  taking graduates to 55 per cent of the workforce. However. the increase rate will taper off from 6 per cent now, to 1.5 per cent in 2052, as occupations reach a saturation point of workers with higher education, with increased numbers tied to industry growth, rather than skilling-up.

Skilled migrants will account for an increasing proportion of the increase over time, reducing labour market demand by 294,000 additional qualifications annually for the next decade to and by 235,000 annually in the long-run. 

Ex-immigration, there will be an increasing qualification shortfall over time, reaching 314,000 by 2052. Under-supply will apply to all industries, ex-media, with public sector/service provision accounting for the top four (professional services, health, public administration education) and construction the fifth. 

However, demand can be based on assumptions, rather than levels of education, required, as “employees and employers use qualifications as a signal for quality regardless of whether the role strictly ‘needs’ that qualification, and this leads to changes in market demand over time.”

The report also includes alternative scenarios. In one, growth in demand for HE educated workers drops, due to economic dislocation caused by rapid policy responses to climate change.

In the other, under-supply of graduates leads to a hiring shift towards demonstrated skills, where, “individuals become more mobile throughout their career and reskilling is increasingly supported by short courses and employer-led training initiatives rather than formal higher education qualifications.”



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