Do you need a college degree to survive in the modern world?

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Jeevun sandher, King’s College London

Stay at home. This was the strict rule enforced in countries around the world when the dangers of COVID-19 were fully understood. Only “key workers” whose physical presence in the workplace was deemed crucial were expected to come to work.

The effect on work habits has been dramatic. Sectors such as hospitality and retail have suffered greatly and many jobs have been threatened. Overall, however, the worst job impact of the pandemic in the UK has been suffered by unqualified men.

Unlike graduates, who were often able to “zoom in on the desk” and continue working during periods of lockdown, non-graduates were less likely to be able to work from home. Instead, companies have chosen to put them on leave or fire them altogether. The unqualified men were roughly twice as likely to lose their jobs compared to women without diplomas.

Labor Force Survey

But unqualified men who lose their jobs are nothing new. In fact, this continues a 40-year trend of their employment status becoming increasingly precarious in the post-industrial economy, where the manufacturing sector declined. Their roles in processes such as manufacturing production lines were either taken by machines or exported.

Why unqualified men lose out

the record Employment rates in the UK before the pandemic obscured the fact that over the past decades men have seen their employment rates fall, while women have saw theirs rise.

And it is the unqualified men who are at the origin of this drop in rates. The proportion of them in employment increased from more than 90% in 1980 to 75% in 2019, as can be seen below, while women without diplomas saw their employment rate increase over this period.

Labor Force Survey

With the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, non-graduates found work in service sector jobs such as hospitality, which could not be obtained. performed by machines. The unqualified men, however, were less skillful to get these jobs only women without degrees.

When men with no qualifications could find work, the jobs they held were more likely to involve manual tasks. As shown in the graph below, in 2019, men with no qualifications had jobs that contained, on average, around 45% manual tasks compared to 33% for women with no qualifications. These manual tasks could not be performed in person during the pandemic.

Labor Force Survey 2019

At the same time, unqualified men were less likely to fall into the category of key workers who continued to work during the pandemic. In health care, 75% of workers are women, while in education it is 72% and in care it is 80%.

Labor Force Survey 2019

Whether or not unqualified men are able to find work again is likely to have a profound impact both for them and for society. The reduction in employment opportunities available to them has already had dramatic effects. Research suggests that their economic angst helped fuel populist movements in both Brexit and Donald trump, in the conviction that they would defend and promote their relative status.

The impact on health

The decline in employment opportunities has also led to the deaths of unqualified men much more than before. Both UK and the we, many of those who haven’t been able to find work in the past 30 years have turned to alcohol and medications as life grew hopeless. They also began to kill themselves in greater numbers.

In the UK, the number of middle-aged men who die from these “deaths of despair” Doubled over the past 30 years. In the United States, the number has grown so rapidly that it has in fact lead to fall overall life expectancy.

What happens next is uncertain. The good news is that economic growth as the UK recovered from the effects of the pandemic has led to decrease in unemployment. The bad news is part of why unemployment has gone down, it’s because more than 150,000 people have stopped looking for work because they are retired or sick.

Less educated workers find it more difficult to re-enter the labor market when they leave it. The UK’s economic recovery is likely to slow down over the next year as well, as the government spends less money to support it. Whether unqualified men are able to find work in the post-pandemic economy will not only be a matter of employment, but of survival.


Jeevun sandher, PhD student – Department of Political Economy, King’s College London

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.


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