Overeducation: A Tough Nut to Crack
It's a bizarre concept. At a time when there is almost universal agreement on the importance of education, both for individual well-being and for national economic prosperity, how on earth can we think of people as overeducated? To compete successfully in the global economy nations must provide high quality goods and services, produced by a highly-skilled workforce. To survive in today's knowledge-based society, an individual must be well-educated, and capable of continually updating his or her skills in a process of lifelong learning. For more than a decade, the complaint in Britain has been of insufficient investment in education and training. So how could anyone argue we are investing too much? Of course they're not--or at least not in the way you might think. But there is an argument for saying that "overeducation" is a serious problem in the UK, and that this phenomenon should lead to a reassessment of the way resources are used for education and training.
Is overeducation a real problem?
As most people know, there's been a rapid and sharp increase in the provision of higher education in Britain.
Table 1 shows that in 1997 3 percent of the working-age population had a higher degree, more than double the proportion 12 years earlier; over the same period the proportion of people with a first degree went up by almost half. Yet there has also been an increase in the number of people who are overeducated, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.
How much is too much? This is from Fathom, which makes it difficult to point to. The original appeared in CentrePiece, The Magazine of Economic Performance.
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