Balneus

Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Graduate underemployment and Andrew Norton

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-07-11


Although a self-professed right-winger, I have a lot of respect for Andrew Norton (observations from Carlton’s lone classical liberal), as he doesn’t seem to have a philosophy of following the right-wing party lines and is big on facts rather than polemicism.

His recent post "Are there too few university students? (Again)" is an example.  I’ve made comments elsewhere about the number of graduates pulling latte’s or beer for a living as an example of the inability of Australian business to take advantage of our graduates, and he discusses a similar issue in his typical fashion of giving a fair go to those he disagrees with, or data that might be spun uncomfortably for the federal government.

Yet DEST’s completions data showed that there were nearly 108,000 domestic bachelor degree graduations for the proceeding year. So even in an exceptionally strong labour market, and even before taking migration into account, we produced 13,000 more graduates than the labour market required.

OK, so that’s more than 10% of graduates underused.

The net result, as in most years, was that the pool of graduates in non-graduate jobs increased, though it is fairly stable as a percentage.

OK, so Andrew blames Canberra for misallocating places to courses with low demand in the labor market, and I’ll blame business/government for failure to use our best and brightest to increase our competitiveness.

I’ll also complain that we’d be better off if the many who do get jobs because of Commerce/Finance degrees had instead done Engineering/Science degrees.  But these are exactly the skills that aren’t being used by Australian business and government to their full potential, or we’d be producing innovative products and have a trade surplus like the Teutons[*].  It’s also worthwhile noting the huge numbers of Engineering/Science grads being pumped out of China and India as they start moving to value-added manufacturing rather than low-intellectual-property sweatshop factories.

BTW: I’d advocate a dramatic increase in user-paid fees of commerce-type degrees unless the student "bonded" themselves to government agencies for five years, while making science and engineering degrees, and "bonded" students from arts departments, totally free-of-charge.  Andrew would probably hate that.

While most readers of this blog will be lefties, and avoid reading the blogs of the righties, I’d thoroughly recommend you start dropping in on Andrew’s blog on a regular basis.

It’s a pity we don’t see him putting his case on shows like The Insiders in the right-wing chair – but then, he might expose a few facts that reflect poorly on the government.  In fact, putting Norton in the chair would be a good way for the ABC to refute claims of leftist bias, rather than putting the easily-discountable polemicists like Bolt and Akermann on display as the voices of the right.

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6 Responses to “Graduate underemployment and Andrew Norton”

  1. Kind words, Dave, but I just don’t do Insiders kind of commentary. While I do watch it as I do my ironing, I am only modestly interested in the day-to-day point scoring that it covers. It’s the long-term trends and continuities that interest me most, but the latter particularly don’t make for good TV.

  2. Dave Bath said

    OK – how about Lateline? Would you care to nominate any TV show on any channel that review "long-term trends and continuities"?

    Hey, the most worthy shows on Aunty (or SBS) aren’t usually considered good television. Nevertheless, they are the ones us latte-drinking lefty elitists prefer watching, and you’d be addressing those who disagree with you but are prepared to listen.

    (And are you saying Hendo, as the only right-hand-chair sitter that makes you think, is "day-to-day point scoring"? Sorry – don’t comment – just couldn’t resist)

  3. “I’d advocate a dramatic increase in user-paid fees of commerce-type degrees unless the student “bonded” themselves to government agencies for five years, while making science and engineering degrees, and “bonded” students from arts departments, totally free-of-charge. Andrew would probably hate that.”

    I hate all policies that involve more regulation or more spending unless there is strong evidence or at least a strong theory as to how the benefits outweigh the costs.

    I’m happy for more user-pays in commerce; the current subsidies are small and I don’t think getting rid of them would have any negative effects.

    Bonding I see as generally inefficient; it is effectively paying salary via scholarships but the employer would get a wider choice of graduates, and therefore possibly better graduates, by paying more competitive salaries after graduation.

  4. Dave Bath said

    I knew Andrew would hate it! But, he is philosophically a classical liberal (of the small government type I believe), there’s a decent body of philosophy justifying his stance, and this is another example of how well intentioned people balance data, intuition, and heart, then come to different conclusions. When these different views are discussed with respect, a decent democracy results, which I think both of us want.

    I totally agree with Andrew that competitive salaries after graduation (that also dealt with the prohibitive cost of education) would remove a need for bonding – although there is nothing to stop a government bonding the best and brightest. But, in my biased opinion, I think nurses, public service and small town doctors, teachers, and public servant scientists and engineers (e.g. in CSIRO) are given a pittance compared to what they give to society. However, bonding does make it easier to send graduates to rural areas, which I feel are grossly underserviced.

    The difficulties of figuring out a "remote posting" allowance make servicing of rural areas awkward in the free market, especially for public servants such as teachers. I think both Andrew and I would agree on the likelyhood of a fracas not only between employers and unions, but within unions on this.

    As to benefit, I feel that innovative high-value products that help the economy (esp the trade balance) correlate with the number of scientists and engineers working in both public and private sectors, and vague recollection of the ratio of dollars generated into the Oz economy for every dollar given to CSIRO being either 10:1 or 20:1 demonstrates the deeper value for wealth generation from policies that increase the number of scientists/engineers. Any balance of carrots/sticks that push people into areas that generate national income (rather than just make money move around faster inside an economy) would be a good thing.

  5. […] Bath praises Andrew Norton for engendering polite and informed […]

  6. I’ll also complain that we’d be better off if the many who do get jobs because of Commerce/Finance degrees had instead done Engineering/Science degrees. But these are exactly the skills that aren’t being used by Australian business and government to their full potential, or we’d be producing innovative products and have a trade surplus like the Teutons. It’s also worthwhile noting the huge numbers of Engineering/Science grads being pumped out of China and India as they start moving to value-added manufacturing rather than low-intellectual-property sweatshop factories

    Hear hear! My husband is a scientist. He has a PhD, and he is a clever fellow. He’s been working for five years now since he finished the PhD. My sister’s partner is a lawyer. He does not have a PhD, but he is also a clever fellow. He’s been working for five years now since he graduated from law school.

    Although they started on the same kind of level, my husband’s income is not nearly on a par with that of my sister’s partner’s income. The conclusion I draw from this: scientists just aren’t valued in Australia, even when they are very highly qualified fellows like my husband. It makes me really mad. The Australian job market just doesn’t recognise the importance of these skills and I think it should.

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