British graduates struggle despite job market recovery

LONDON (REUTERS) - Almost half of recent graduates in Britain are in jobs that do not require a degree, official statistics showed on Tuesday, suggesting a labour market recovery is not yielding the high-reward posts that many newly-qualified people were hoping for.

Forty-seven per cent of recent graduates were in non-graduate jobs between April and June this year, compared with 39 per cent in the same period in 2008, the Office for National Statistics said.

Britain's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest in more than three years as an economic recovery gathers pace. But rising university admission rates are driving fears that there are not enough high-calibre jobs to soak up the new graduates.

Britain's coalition government has increased university tuition fees, leading to criticism that students are being saddled with debt for degrees that do not guarantee a career.

"Despite signs of a wider jobs recovery, the pick-up in the graduate jobs market has been less pronounced," said Mr Andrew Hunter, co-founder of jobs website Adzuna.

"In the face of fierce competition, many grads are being forced to take on lower-skilled jobs," he said, adding that there were more than 50 graduates competing for every degree-level job in September, according to his company's own research.

The percentage of graduates in Britain's population has risen from 17 per cent of working age adults over 21 in 1992 to 38 per cent this year. Unemployment among recent graduates stood at 9 per cent in the second quarter of this year, up from 5 per cent in the same period of 2008.

Recent graduates with degrees in medicine and media studies were the most likely to find employment. The best salaries went to those with qualifications in medicine and engineering, the figures showed.

Those who specialised in arts and humanities fared worst in finding jobs, while arts and media studies graduates were the least well paid.

Mr Steve Radley, policy director at EEF, an organisation representing the UK manufacturing sector, said the economy needed more people to study science and engineering.

"Today's figures show that graduates have not escaped the squeeze on pay, but they also highlight the major impact that subject choices have on earnings," he said.