Impact of qualifications on work
Graphs on this page:
- The lower a person’s qualifications, the more likely they are to be lacking but wanting paid work. So, for example, around one in seven people aged 25 to 49 with no GCSEs at grade C or above lack but want paid work compared to around one in thirty of those with degrees or equivalent.
- The lower a person’s qualifications, the more likely they are to be in low-paid work. So, for example, around half of employees aged 25 to 49 with no GCSEs at grade C or above are paid less than £7 per hour compared to around one in twelve of those with degrees or equivalent.
- The overall conclusion is that staying on in education post-16, and preferably post-18, is important, in terms of both getting work and, if in work, getting a reasonable rate of pay.
Definitions and data sources
This indicator relates a person’s highest level of qualification to both being out of (but wanting) a job and to low pay. By connecting past education with their current or future economic prospects, this provides a crucial link in the anti-poverty strategy that the UK government has been pursuing since 1997, a strategy which sees work as the route out of poverty and qualifications as the route to work.
The first graph shows the proportion of 25- to 49-year-olds who lack but want paid work, with the data broken down by level of highest qualification. The data is shown separately for those who are unemployed and those counted as ‘economically inactive’ who nevertheless want paid work.
‘Unemployment’ is the ILO definition, which is used for the official unemployment numbers. It comprises all those with no paid work in the survey week who were available to start work in the next fortnight and who either looked for work in the last month or were waiting to start a job already obtained.
The ‘economically inactive who want paid work’ includes people not available to start work for some time and those not actively seeking work. The data is based on a question in the Labour Force Survey asking the economically inactive whether they would like paid work or not.
The second graph shows the proportion of 25- to 49-year-olds in employment who were paid less than £7 per hour, with the data broken down by level of highest qualification.
In both graphs, the data is for those aged 25 to 49. People aged less than 25 have been excluded because both their unemployment and low pay patterns are rather different, in part because of the substantial proportion still in education. People aged 50 and over have been excluded because the high prevalence of ‘no qualifications’ among this age group makes their aggregation with the younger age group somewhat problematic. Those with GCSEs below grade C have been grouped with those with no qualifications for reasons of sample size. For similar reasons, the data is the average for the latest three years. A low pay threshold of £7 per hour has been used in the second graph. This threshold is roughly two-thirds of the Great Britain median hourly earnings and is commonly used as a threshold which analysing low pay.
The data source for both graphs is the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Respondents who did not answer the questions required to perform the analysis have been excluded from the relevant graphs.
Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium. The LFS is a well-established, quarterly survey designed to be representative of the population as whole. However, the low pay data in the second graph is considered by ONS to be less reliable than the non-income data in the first graph.