Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Nice Problem To Have

Frances Woodley on education and job satisfaction in Canada:

SpongeBob SquarePants and the Economics of Identity

...Canada, like many other countries, has expanded access to post-secondary education, but the demand for educated workers has not kept up to the supply. A study by Marc Frenette based on data from the 1980s and 1990s found over thirty percent of university graduates were over-qualified for their jobs.

Studies also find that over-qualified workers are less satisfied at work.,,But still, there is a real possibility that education can make people worse off if it creates a dissonance between people's identities ("I am an economist") and their lived experience ("I am a greeter at Walmart").

This line of reasoning can quickly lead to a Brave New World where people are identified as potential leaders (alphas) or workers (epsilons) at an early age and conditioned, trained and drugged so that they are happy with their lot in life...

...Despite the real dangers of over-qualification, I want my children to go to university, because I know that without a university education they have few chances of finding interesting and/or adequately paid employment. And I want them to experience the joys of intellectual discovery and ill-lit student pubs.

Going to university is still a rational choice for many students.

...But the outcome of rational individual calculations is ever-increasing numbers of graduates chasing a limited number of good jobs, and under-employed Squidwards.

In Canada, the problem of over-qualification is exacerbated by our immigration system. Canada admits immigrants on a point system that gives preference to highly educated candidates. However research by Phil Oreopoulos suggests that Canadian employers place little to no weight on foreign credentials and experience, while Steven Wald and Tony Fang and others have found that immigrants are more likely to be over educated for the jobs they hold.

Canada is almost a mirror image of Malaysia in terms of educational attainment – something like 8 out of 10 citizens have at least tertiary education, compared to almost exactly the opposite here.

After all due consideration, and mature thought and reflection, in this instance I’d rather we had their problems than ours.

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