More workers say they are over-educated

Updated: 2013-02-08 04:46

By Jin Zhu (China Daily)

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Over-education has become increasingly common in developed cities and regions, which may hinder career development and accelerate an outflow of domestic talent, professionals and industry analysts said.

"The average occurrence of over-education is now significantly higher than in some developed economies, such as the United States and some European countries, in spite of overall insufficient education nationwide," said Lai Desheng, dean of Beijing Normal University's School of Economics and Business Administration.

Over-education means someone's education level is above what his or her occupation requires.

The trend is getting worse, mainly because of rapid expansion of higher education and imbalanced regional development in the labor market over several decades, Lai said.

This trend is normal in a society of free labor flow because workers are attracted to developed regions and industries with better public services, pay and social welfare. According to Lai, the problem is particularly bad in China because "over-education is narrowly focused among some specific industries, regions and cities".

His conclusion was based on a report on the country's labor market in 2012, which showed the average occurrence of over-education is about 43 percent, higher than the peak of 42 percent in the US in 1976.

Meanwhile, 8.9 percent of China's population has received a college education or above, much lower than the 35 percent in the US, according to the report.

In Beijing, nearly half of 1,693 respondents surveyed for the report, which included employers and employees, said they feel they are over-educated or believe this happens to workers in their industries.

Denise Chu, general manager of CJOL, a Shenzhen subsidiary of Asia-Pacific's top online recruiters JobsDB, said over-education occurs in a rising number of industries.

"At present, educational requirements for most jobs on the Chinese mainland are at least a junior college degree or bachelor's degree. But some jobs actually can be done by high school graduates," she said.

Over-education is especially common among jobs involving sales in the finance and insurance industries and manufacturing workers.

Workers in jobs such as shopping guides for high-end brands, receptionists, and machinists are often over-educated, according to CJOL.

An area manager for North China for a French clothing brand who asked to be identified only as Li said some top international brands prefer to hire university graduates as salespeople, especially in large and developed cities.

"Some employers hire salespeople that are highly educated only because they want to look good," he said. "I believe sales experience is more important than people's educational background."

In October, a recruitment notice for 457 sanitation workers released by Harbin's human resources and social security bureau in Heilongjiang province attracted 7,186 candidates. The applicants were attracted to the perks that came with the job, including hukou, or household registration.

Of the candidates, 29 had graduate degrees while the others had at least a junior college degree or bachelor's degree. The average education level among candidates was much higher than authorities had expected, according to media reports.

Analysts said over-education will ultimately have a negative impact, waste educational resources and lead to widespread employee discontent.

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