The UK has enjoyed record-high employment levels in recent years and one of the lowest unemployment rates among OECD countries. However, labour productivity growth, which is closely linked to the use of skills, remains weak. As a result, the OECD’s Getting Skills Right: United Kingdom suggests that several actions should be taken to bring skill supply more in line with skill demand to help to boost growth, productivity and earnings.

Improving the alignment of skills supply and skills demand could help to boost growth, productivity and earnings in the UK.  To assist UK policymakers in meeting this challenge, the OECD will release its Getting Skills Right: United Kingdom report on November 20, during a launch event held in London and in partnership with JPMorgan Chase Foundation and IPPR.  The UK report is one of a series of country studies that look at the issue of skill imbalances, building on evidence from the OECD’s Skills for Jobs database.  The launch event also represents the culmination of the IPPR’s three-year project on New Skills at Work.

Skill imbalances are high in the UK: 40% of workers are either over-qualified or under-qualified for their job, and a similar number are working in a field unrelated to the one in which they studied.  For instance, more than half of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates in the UK end up in non-science-related occupations, such as finance or the public sector.  Many STEM graduates are tempted to enter non-STEM occupations due to lucrative financial incentives despite shortages in mathematics and sciences (Figure 1).

In other cases, field-of-study mismatch arises due to low demand for a given field-of-study.  When workers must accept jobs for which they are over-qualified because they cannot find a job in their field-of-study, then they suffer wage penalties and lower job satisfaction.  About a third of workers who are mismatched by field-of-study in the UK fall into this group.