Study shows 45% of young graduates consider themselves to be underemployed

After years of the proverbial blood, sweat and tears that go into studying, most graduates cannot wait to start their careers. With unemployment in South Africa as high as it is currently, getting your dream job is not always guaranteed. While many qualified graduates are able to find employment, some end up underemployed.

Dr Precious Mncayi, a lecturer from the School of Economic Sciences at the North-West University (NWU), conducted a PhD study titled “An analysis of underemployment among young people in South Africa: The case of university graduates”.

Her research aimed to understand alternative labour market indicators, over and above the employment and unemployment rates. In particular, she wanted to understand underemployment, which occurs when a person does not work full-time or takes a job that does not reflect their actual training and financial needs, among young university graduates.

Her overall sample size, after data cleaning, was 576 graduates from various South African universities who were all under the age of 35 years. Dr Mncayi started her study in 2017 and took 36 months to complete it.

Most graduates are employed

During her master’s-degree study, Dr Mncayi found that university graduates are, in the main, employed. So for her PhD research she focused on the different types of employment and analysed alternative labour market indicators such as underemployment.

The results of this study showed that 82,6% of the sampled graduates were either employed part time or full-time, and only 17,4% were unemployed.

In terms of underemployment, Dr Mncayi found that approximately 45% of the participants considered themselves to be underemployed.

She focused on three main categories of underemployment: by income, by time worked, and in terms of skills.

Underemployment by income and skills were the most common categories, accounting for 36,4% and 58,5% of underemployed respondents respectively. Only 5,1% of the sampled graduates were time-underemployed, meaning they were working less than 35 hours a week.

“Those who considered themselves to be underemployed in terms of skills perceived themselves to be in jobs where they were overqualified, or had more skills and experience than their counterparts in the same jobs,” says Dr Mncayi.

She says that while a lot of research on unemployment has been done in South Africa, more studies are needed on alternative indicators in the labour market. This is a gap that Dr Mncayi, with her novel work on underemployment, is well equipped to help fill.

Dr Precious

Dr Precious Mncayi is a lecturer from the School of Economic Sciences. To listen to her talking about underemployment statistics click here.

Submitted on Fri, 06/11/2021 - 11:51