An analysis by HEPI (published today, 4 July 2010) of the most recent data available reveals that graduate unemployment has worsened sharply for both male and female graduates in just one year and has increased by 25 per cent from 11.1 per cent in December 2008 to 14.0 per cent in December 2009. But the unemployment position appears to be far worse for males than for females: in December 2009 17.2 per cent of young male graduates were unemployed compared to 11.2 per cent of female graduates.
To compile its findings, HEPI analysed the most recent data collections by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) with some recent context provided from the Labour Force Survey obtained from the Office of National Statistics.
In other respects, from an analysis of the statistics contained in the 2007-08 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, one can see that the graduate employment picture is more mixed with male and female graduates having similar experiences with regard to quality of job and job satisfaction.
However, the HEPI report makes clear that the graduate employment picture needs to be understood in the context of the lower participation, higher drop-out and higher unemployment rates for men. Combined, these factors mean that just under half (44 per cent) of the graduate jobs are held by men, even though the male population is larger. To the extent that men are disadvantaged, their disadvantage appears to arise from their lower participation in higher education, and their subsequent performance there. Women appear to have the advantage over men when it comes to participation in HE and their subsequent HE performance, but there is one key respect in the transition to work where they appear to be at a disadvantage.
In the area of pay, male graduates have an advantage which grows with time. This is substantially (50 per cent immediately and 30 per cent after 3 years) accounted for by differences in subject choices, but even after allowing for these, those graduate males who are employed earn more than females. The fact that the proportion of the difference that is accounted for by subject choice reduces, suggests that once in the employment market whatever gives rise to the unexplained differences increasingly takes hold. It may be the result of discrimination. It might be as a result of different attitudes on the part of male and female graduates to jobs/life choices/nature of jobs applied for. This is an apparent discrepancy that needs to be investigated properly.
Part 2 of the report supplements the research published by HEPI in June 2009 on “Male and female participation and progression in HE” and reports on some further work done following comments and responses to the original report.
Between the 1994-1995 and 2004-2005 cohorts the young participation rate for men increased from 29 per cent to 32 per cent whilst the participation rate for women increased from 35 per cent to 40 per cent.
Having further investigated the data relating to a range of issues which some commentators have pointed out may have an impact on participation rates of males and females in HE (e.g. bias in admissions processes; impact of the integration of nursing and other programmes into HE), the report concludes that there has been no recent improvement in the balance between males and females going to HE. The best that can be said is that the pace of the deterioration has slowed.