Over the period 2007-2021, employment rates have fluctuated slightly more for the young population than the working-age population. This might suggest that the employment of young people is disproportionately influenced by changing structural conditions in the economy or, alternatively, that young people are more responsive with their labour supply.
Whilst employment rates for both graduates and postgraduates in the working-age population increased slightly in 2021, within the young population only graduates saw increasing employment rates. The postgraduate employment rate for young people decreased slightly from 88.1% to 87.4%.
While the non-graduate employment rate remained the same within the young population in 2021 (74.4%), the working-age population saw a second year of decline, from 71.1% in 2020 to 70.2% in 2021.
Similar to the trend in employment rates, between 2007 and 2021, high-skilled employment rates have fluctuated slightly more for the young population than the working-age population. Overall, however, high-skilled employment rates have varied less since 2007 than employment rates. This suggests that high-skilled jobs are more secure and less susceptible to economic shocks.
Non-graduates were the only group whose high-skilled employment rate was above 2007 levels in 2021; this was true for both young and working-age populations.
The graduate unemployment rate fell in 2021 across both age groups (dropping by 1.3 percentage points in the young population, and by 0.5 percentage points in the working-age population). Meanwhile the non-graduate unemployment rate stayed the same in the working-age population, and decreased slightly in the young population (by 0.3 percentage points). This widened the gap between non-graduate and graduate unemployment rates in both the working-age and young populations to 2.3 and 2.1 percentage points, respectively.
Since 2007, the postgraduate unemployment rate has remained persistently below that of the graduate group within the working-age population. Meanwhile, for the young population, the postgraduate unemployment rate has remained below that of the graduate unemployment every year except 2010 and 2017, while in 2018 and 2021 these rates were the same.
Median (nominal) salaries were higher in the working-age population than the young population for graduates, postgraduates, and non-graduates in 2021. The median salary differential was largest for postgraduates and smallest for non-graduates. This might reflect that postgraduates take longer to obtain higher wages after leaving study or might be attributable to postgraduates entering the labour force when they are older, thus having less time to increase their wages before the age of 30. Wage differentials could also be a product of heterogeneity between the types of people who undertake different levels of study, their motivations, and their characteristics, rather than due to the qualification itself.
In 2021, median (nominal) salaries were higher for males than females across all graduate types and across both age groups. The salary differential between males and females was greatest for working-age graduates at £8,000, lower than in 2019 when the differential reached £10,000.
Since median salaries are calculated for individuals employed in full-time work only, the higher proportion of females in part-time work does not contribute to the gender pay gaps in these figures. Data on the proportion of men and women in part-time work can be found in the Office for National Statistics’ dataset on full-time, part-time and temporary workers.
Using median salaries mitigates against average values being skewed by extremes. It does, however, conceal other features of the data, for example, that the difference in pay between the sexes is largest among high earners. Further analysis of the gender pay gap in 2021 can be found in the Office for National Statistics’ publication: The gender pay gap in the UK: 2021.