Disconnected World Of Work and Education

ILO Calls For Urgent Need to Revitalise Trade Unions

Only about half of the workers hold jobs corresponding to their level of education, which points to a significant disconnect between the world of education and the world of work, said an ILO analysis.

The ILO, which drew the conclusion on labour force survey data in over 130 countries, estimates that only about half of the workers hold jobs corresponding to their level of education. The remainder are either over educated or under educated for their jobs.

The analysis points out that workers in higher income countries are more likely to hold jobs that match their level of education. The percentage comes around 60 per cent. For upper-middle and lower-middle income countries, this comes to 52 and 43 per cent respectively. In low-income countries, only one in four workers holds jobs corresponding to their level of education.


Regardless of the income level over education and under education are both found in all countries. It said that under education is more prevalent in low income countries, while over education occur more frequently in high income, countries. The analysis points out that around 20 per cent of all the employed are over educated in high and upper-middle income countries. In lower income countries, this comes to around 12.5 per cent and in low-income countries, it is less than 10 per cent. A certain degree of over education will always exist because some individuals accept jobs below their level of education either because these jobs offer specific advantages or because they lack experience. For some of these workers, over education may only be a temporary situation Low-income countries have the highest proportion of under educated workers. About 70 per cent of the employed have less education than required for their jobs. The analogous share for lower-middle income countries is around 46 per cent, while in middle-income and high-income countries it is about 20 per cent. The main reason for under education is the relatively low level of educational attainment of the existing workforce and/or lack of formal qualifications, especially in low- income countries.

Over education can lead to lower wages, lower job satisfaction, loss of motivation, a higher rate of on-the-job searching, unrealized expectations and lower returns on investment in education. Under education can negatively impact on productivity, economic growth and innovation. Moreover, many under educated workers struggle to transition from the informal to the formal economy owing to the lack of formal qualifications required for jobs in the formal sector that are similar to those they are doing informally. Under education can also hinder workers from moving from low-pay industries to better-paid jobs in the services sector, and from coping with the changes brought about by technological advances, automatization and digitalization. Under educated workers are at greater risk of losing their jobs, especially during a crisis.


The rate of over education is higher for women than for men in high-income countries. There are no significant differences in upper-middle-income countries. Women are more likely than men to be under educated for the jobs they perform in lower-income countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has probably had an impact on the rate of educational mismatch among women, especially those with lower levels of education because they end to be concentrated in the services industries most affected by pandemic related restrictions such as retail and hospitality, and because they are more likely to have to take care of children.


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