ROA survey on labour market entry

Labour market recovery continues, but not for all recent graduates

We have been seeing a slight recovery in the labour market since 2014, and this year the survey conducted by the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) at Maastricht University shows that the 2015 unemployment rate has again fallen slightly across the entire breadth of the education spectrum. Initially, higher professional education (HBO) graduates primarily benefited from the pick-up in the economy, whereas we are now seeing increasing opportunities for those with a secondary vocational education and training (MBO or VET) qualification based on a school-based pathway (MBO BOL). Nonetheless, we have found that the picture is not as rosy for everyone.

Young people of a different ethnic background have particular difficulty finding work, even if they have been born in the Netherlands. We have found that both non-Western and Western ethnic minorities have a lower chance of finding a job, as opposed to native Dutch young people with the same educational background. For recent graduates with an MBO diploma we see a wide variation in job prospects, ranging from a 30% to 100% chance of a job appropriate to their level of education. However, young people rarely include job prospects in their choice of study programme. The issue for the future is how to ingrain labour market relevance in students’ minds when choosing a study programme. After graduating, graduates indicated that they regretted their choice of a study programme where job opportunities were scarce. They also wanted to be better informed of professional opportunities by the educational institution.

This and more is revealed in the report entitled ‘Schoolverlaters tussen onderwijs en arbeidsmarkt 2014’ (‘Recent graduates between education and the labour market 2014’), published by ROA at Maastricht University.

ROA conducts an annual survey among recent graduates. This report focuses primarily on graduates from the 2013-2014 academic year who were surveyed at the end of 2015. The results cover almost the entire breadth of the education sector: preparatory secondary vocational education (VMBO), the full-time MBO or VET school-based pathway (MBO BOL), the MBO or VET work-based pathway (MBO BBL), senior general secondary education (HAVO), pre-university education (VWO), full-time higher professional education (HBO) and research-oriented higher education (WO) (full-time master’s programme). The report contains further analyses on labour market entry by young people of Western and non-Western minority backgrounds and the labour market relevance of MBO programmes.

A number of conclusions are shown below:

Recent graduates 2013-2014

  • Unemployment is falling though still high for a number groups
    Although young people are benefiting from the pick-up in the economy, the rates of unemployment are still comparatively high. Particularly for those who have a degree in the ‘Economy’ and ‘Behaviour and Society’ sectors.
  • Hidden unemployment among MBO graduates
    Of all MBO graduates in work, 34% would like to work more hours than allowed under their contract. Among MBO graduates who work less than 12 hours a week, almost two-thirds would like to work more hours.
  • Graduates are more positive about their study programme as a good basis for entering the labour market and for further developing their knowledge and skills
    The improvements in the labour market are also reflected in young people’s opinion of their programme. Following a six-year decline, in 2015 we have noted for the first time that graduates are more positive about their programme as a basis for entering the labour market and for further developing their knowledge and skills.
  • Information about professional opportunities unsatisfactory
    Only one out of three MBO and HBO graduates is satisfied with the information provided on professional opportunities by their programme. This is an alarming result given that it concerns vocational programmes. The low level of satisfaction would seem to be of a structural nature. 

Labour market relevance of MBO programmes: a further analysis

  • Considerable variation in chances of work and working at educational level
    MBO vocational programmes show considerable variation in labour market outcomes for the period 2011–2015. Over the past five years, the unemployment rate ranges from 0% to 28%. The labour market outcome on the extent to which graduates work in a job appropriate to their level or better ranges from a mere 30% to almost 100%.
  • Finding work ≠ finding quality work
    Vocational programmes offering a high chance of finding paid work do not always offer a high chance of finding work for at least 12 hours a week or work that is appropriate to the graduate’s educational level or better.
  • Labour market relevance and programme characteristics
    Labour market relevance is closely associated with the question of the extent to which a vocational programme offers a work-based MBO BBL pathway in addition to a school-based MBO BOL pathway. The fact that employers make available work-based MBO BBL placements to train young people for certain vocations, shows that employers have a demand for these graduates and that they do not regard students of work-based MBO BBL programmes merely as ‘cheap’ labour.
  • Poor job prospects = regret after the fact but not a priority at the outset
    Young people in preparatory vocational secondary education (VMBO) who have opted for a specific MBO programme rarely base their choice on indicators linked to labour market relevance. The consequences of their choice only becomes evident when they enter the labour market. The analyses reveal that poor job prospects for vocational programmes lead graduates to regret their choice of programme.

Labour market entry: the role of ethic origin 2011–2015

  • Higher chance of unemployment only marginally explained by educational background
    In the period surveyed from 2011–2015, non-native Dutch young people of non-Western and Western origin have a higher chance of unemployment, where the disadvantage for young people of non-Western origin is significantly higher than for those of Western origin. This applies not only to young people holding a diploma for a lower level of MBO education, but also to higher professional education (HBO) graduates. The greater chance of unemployment experienced by young people of Western and non-Western origin, moreover, is hardly explained by, for instance, the MBO learning pathway they have followed, or the MBO or HBO programme they have chosen.
  • Problem greater in MBO vocational programmes preparing for work in the private sector and for professions dealing directly with customers
    The extent of the disadvantage for MBO graduates appears to be linked to the labour market sector for which they are being trained in vocational programmes: the government as a potential employer for graduates reduces the disadvantage experienced by young people of non-Western origin, whereas the disadvantage is greater for vocational programmes that prepare students for positions requiring considerable interpersonal communication skills.
  • Ambivalent picture when young people have found a job
    The answer to the question whether these problems in young people’s search for paid work also translate to a disadvantage once they have found a job is ambivalent. We have found a clear distinction between young people who already had one foot in the door of the labour market during their study programme (work-based MBO BBL pathway) and young people who mostly studied in the classroom (school-based MBO BOL pathway and higher professional education). In the first group we have found that there is hardly any difference between the positions Dutch native young people and young people of either a Western or non-Western origin have acquired. In the second group, and more evidently among graduates of school-based MBO BOL programmes, we have found that the lower chance of finding work also translated to a disadvantage where the actual quality of the work is concerned (a lower level job or less job security, for instance).

More figures on website 
The website 'Kerncijfers  Schoolverlatersonderzoeken’  (‘Key figures from recent graduate surveys’) offers the opportunity to easily obtain all figures from the recent graduates surveys carried out by ROA. Along with a summary of the latest results, the website offers a summary of the figures derived from previous measurements among recent graduates in Dutch education.

The full report can be downloaded from

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