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Are we building a nation of PhD baristas?

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There is a looming fear among young people in the Australian labour market that they will not find jobs commensurate with their educational levels because they are ‘over-qualified’.

The economics suggests these apprehensions are well-founded, with 26 per cent of young graduates in Australia being ‘under-utilised’ in 2013.
Policymakers cannot take this situation lightly. At its worst, it speaks to ‘intergenerational inequity’ — a breaking of the social contract between two generations. It is worrying for students, parents, and broader stakeholders in society in equal measure.

A sizeable educational investment, both in terms of money and time, is finding unfulfilled returns in mundane work that requires none of the sunk investment in intellectual capital, an idea disparagingly called ‘the era of the overeducated barista’.

The pernicious tendency towards precarious low-quality jobs for youth that offer neither income-security or professional development is growing. Cognisant of this fear, the International Labor Organization has warned that globally, an entire generation is being lost to underemployment.


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