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Transition to work, mismatch and underemployment among graduates: an Australian longitudinal study

Denise Jackson (Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia)
Ian Li (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 9 July 2021

Issue publication date: 13 December 2022




There are ongoing concerns regarding university degree credentials leading to graduate-level employment. Tracking graduate underemployment is complicated by inconsistent measures and tendencies to report on outcomes soon after graduation. Our study explored transition into graduate-level work beyond the short-term, examining how determining factors change over time.


We considered time-based underemployment (graduates are working less hours than desired) and overqualification (skills in employment not matching education level/type) perspectives. We used a national data set for 41,671 graduates of Australian universities in 2016 and 2017, surveyed at four months and three years' post-graduation, to explore determining factors in the short and medium-term. Descriptive statistical techniques and binary logistic regression were used to address our research aims.


Graduates' medium-term employment states were generally positive with reduced unemployment and increased full-time job attainment. Importantly, most graduates that were initially underemployed transited to full-time work at three years post-graduation. However, around one-fifth of graduates were overqualified in the medium-term. While there was some evidence of the initially qualified transitioning to matched employment, supporting career mobility theory, over one-third remaining overqualified. Skills, personal characteristics and degree-related factors each influenced initial overqualification, while discipline was more important in the medium-term.


Our study explores both time-based underemployment and overqualification, and over time, builds on earlier work. Given the longer-term, negative effects of mismatch on graduates' career and wellbeing, findings highlight the need for career learning strategies to manage underemployment and consideration of future labour market policy for tertiary graduates.



Jackson, D. and Li, I. (2022), "Transition to work, mismatch and underemployment among graduates: an Australian longitudinal study", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 43 No. 7, pp. 1516-1539.



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