The latest ONS census analysis looks at how the employment rates of people aged 25 to 64 related to their highest level of qualification. This information was collected in the 2011 Census from people usually resident in England and Wales, including details of the qualifications they held and their economic activity the week before the census. The analysis reveals that fewer than half (48.5%) of those with no qualifications were in employment compared with around 8 in 10 (80.7%) of those with at least one qualification, and that those with degree level or above qualifications had similar employment rates to those with 2+ A Levels or equivalent. However, the most common occupation types, which give an indication of potential earnings, were different between these qualification levels.
Why focus on those aged 25 to 64?
This analysis focuses mainly on usual residents aged 25 to 64 because those aged 16 to 24 are still in education or training and will not have achieved their highest level of qualification yet, and those aged 65 and over are mostly in retirement. Therefore, those aged 25 to 64 are a more appropriate group to analyse the effect of different qualifications on labour market participation.
Employment rates much higher with at least one qualification compared with no qualifications
Fewer than half (48.5%) of those with no qualifications were in employment compared with around 8 in 10 (80.7%) of those with at least one qualification. Those with no qualifications were most likely to work in ‘elementary’ (28.0%) and ‘machine operatives’ (18.1%) occupations. In general, as the level of qualification increased, so did the employment rate.
Small differences between degree level or above and A Level employment rates
There was a small difference in employment rates between the two highest levels of qualification, 2+ A Levels or equivalent (83.5%) and degree level or above (85.3%). This suggests that having a degree level or above had little impact on the likelihood of being employed compared to having A Levels. However, the most common types of occupation varied between these qualification levels.
According to the 2011 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings average gross weekly earnings were £685.90 for ‘professional’ and £570.40 for ‘technical’ occupations, which were the most common occupation types for those with a degree level or above qualification. However, average gross weekly earnings were £463.10 for ‘skilled trades’ and £333.80 for ‘caring and leisure’, which were the most common occupation types for those with 2+ A Levels or equivalent. This suggests that degree level or above qualifications could lead to a higher earning potential than A Levels.
High employment rates for lower qualification levels in Eden
Among those with no qualifications, 1-4 and 5+ GCSEs or equivalent, Eden in Cumbria had the highest employment rates out of all the local authorities in England and Wales. This could be partly due to the older age profile in this local authority compared to others, with older workers (aged 50 to 64) having a higher likelihood of being employed.
Tower Hamlets in London had the lowest employment rate among those with no qualifications (30.0%) and 1-4 GCSEs or equivalent (55.4%). In this local authority, 23.5% of people were economically inactive and high proportions of these were either looking after home or family (36.3%) or long-term sick or disabled (24.0%). Inactivity rates in Tower Hamlets were high for those with no qualifications (59.6%) and for 1-4 GCSE or equivalent (31.7%). In contrast, Rushmoor in Hampshire, had the highest employment rate for those with a degree level or above (89.6%) and Blaby in Leicestershire had the highest employment rate for those with 2+ A Levels or equivalent (88.6%).
Where can I find out more about qualifications in the labour market?
These statistics were analysed by the Census Analysis team at ONS. The analysis was based largely on data from the 2011 Census, carried out by ONS. If you would like to find out more about qualifications and labour market participation, you can read the full report, view the interactive map or visit the census analysis page. If you have any comments or suggestions, we would like to hear them. Please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org