From education to employment

How educated you are effects how long you work for

People with laptops sat around table

Educational inequality plays key role in how long you work for, according to new research by the University of Cologne.

The study, conducted by Institute for Sociology and Social Psychology researchers Jana Mäcken and Lea Ellwardt, analysed the differences in voluntary and involuntary labour market exit between lower and higher educated workers in 15 European countries. 

They found that in 13 of the 15 countries, people with less educational qualifications were more likely to leave the labour market by being let go, or made redundant, than higher educated people. 

This is because increased education provides individuals with opportunities to exit the labour market voluntarily as it is typically associated with more attractive, stable, high-income, and healthier working conditions. 

Dr. Jana Mäcken said:

“The demographic change represents one of the greatest financial challenges for European pension systems and, to counteract this, political measures – such as raising statutory age, or cutting early retirement options – have been adopted in almost all European countries.

“However, these measures affect older workers differently based on their level of education and runs the risk of exacerbating social inequalities. As lower income workers are more likely to leave the labour market involuntarily, this could widen the pension gaps after the end of working lives – this is known as the social gradient.”

This social gradient was largest in Czech Republic, Germany and Portugal, and was the smallest in the Netherlands and Denmark. 

The research reveals that for lower educated workers, it is more difficult to reach the new political goal of extending workers lives. 

For this reason, the researchers suggest policies that provide training opportunities specifically for low-educated workers to help reduce educational inequalities in labour market.

Furthermore, stricter employment protection legislation would lead to a smaller social gradient in involuntary labour market exit. 

The study was published in the Journal of Social Policy.

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