Graduates Facing Highest Unemployment Rate Since Austerity Era, Finds Report | TOTUM
Ben Hayward June 10th
2021

New graduates are facing unemployment levels last seen at the height of the austerity era, newly-published data has revealed.  

With young people some of those worse affected by job shortages due to the pandemic, the unemployment rate facing recent graduates reached 6.3% in 2020, following a decade of decline from a peak of 6.5% in 2012, reports the Guardian

The report, published by the Department for Education (DfE), said: “Between 2007 and 2020, employment rates have fluctuated slightly more for the young population compared with the working-age population.

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“This might suggest that the employment of young people is disproportionately influenced by changing structural conditions in the economy.”

Despite the rise in unemployment, pay rates have remained fairly flat , with those graduates who do succeed in finding work averaging a salary of £35,000 - £9,500 more than their peers who did not go to university.

However, salaries do differ greatly by both industry and gender, with men working in banking and finance topping the charts with an average of £45,000, while women working in hotels and restaurants earning the least, at £26,500. 

Across all industries, figures revealed that men were paid, on average,  more than women, including for graduates aged 30 and under, who are less likely to be affected by childcare responsibilities.

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The report also highlighted disparities in the employment rates among ethnic groups and people with disabilities, with white graduates showing an 86.8% employment rate and and 67% ‘high-skilled employment rate’, compared with 81.2% and 53.2% for black graduates, and 73.4% and 52% respectively for disabled graduates.

However, even more grim is the outlook for young people who haven’t attended university, with the figures showing nearly one in four are unemployed and not looking for work, nearly double the rate among graduates.

Postgraduates have fared very slightly better, with a 1.8% lead in overall employment rates compared with graduates - although the high-skilled employment rate for postgrads is 12.4% higher. 

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In terms of graduates already in employment, separate data on student loans in England suggests that the pandemic has negatively affected people’s ability to make their scheduled repayments. 

Figures from the Student Loans Company for 2020-21 show that nearly 202,000 fewer graduates made repayments through their salary than the previous year, meaning they were earning less than the £27,295 repayment threshold. 

The figures also revealed that the total amount of outstanding student loans rose to £160bn, including £4.1bn in interest, with the average loan balance for 2021 graduates standing at £45,060.

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