Migrants drive rise in degrees
By Andrew Trounson
The Australian, December 1, 2009
New statistics suggest Australia is closer than expected to the federal government's target of 40 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds with bachelor degrees by 2025.
The latest Education and Work statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that the proportion of 24 to 34-year-olds with bachelor degrees jumped this year to 34.6 per cent from 31.9 per cent in 2008.
Andrew Norton, research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, points out that it was only in May that government warned that without policy changes the proportion wasn't likely to reach 34 per cent until 2025.
Mr Norton said the data suggested the expansion envisaged by the government may not need to be as big as expected.
'The big question is what role migration is playing here and if we turn off the migrant tap, which we are already doing to an extent, will there be a much slower rate of growth,' Mr Norton said.
Demographer Bob Birrell of Monash University said the increase this year was partly the result of a large domestic cohort working its way into the 25-34 age bracket, but was mainly driven by immigration. 'The increase in the proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds with degrees is certainly not due to any recent increase in domestic training,' Dr Birrell said.
'We aren't doing enough to train locals in the skills needed for the future since most of the net growth in jobs in Australia is in occupations which require a degree of as a minimum entry point.'
But Mr Norton said the relatively high number of graduates staying in jobs that did not require their degrees raised doubts over the extent to which we need more bachelor degree holders, as opposed to diplomas and vocational qualifications.
He noted that the Education and Work numbers show the proportion of graduates in jobs not requiring their degrees had risen to 27.4 per cent this year from 26.3 per cent last year. 'It suggests our policy makers should be cautious about promoting a large expansion in university enrolment.'
EDITORS NOTE: The ABS figures are available online at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6227.0