Graduate salaries plummet to a dismal €400 a week
ONE-IN-FIVE college graduates are beginning their working lives on €400 a week or less, the Irish Independent has learned.
The starting salaries for these graduates who worked hard for honours degrees are a massive €10,000 a year below the average industrial wage.
And significant numbers of them are earning little more than they would on the dole, a major new report reveals.
Overall, starting salaries for graduates plummeted by €4,000 last year as unemployment soared to a record high.
The survey shows 5pc of honours graduates were earning less than €12,999 nine months after graduation. Worst hit were arts, food and science technology graduates.
A further 5pc were earning between €13,000 and €16,999 nine months after leaving college. Another 10pc were earning between €17,000 and €20,999 a year.
This means one-in-five thirdlevel graduates began working on salaries of less than €405 a week, way below the average industrial wage of €625 a week.
And these graduates were the ones who were actually lucky enough to find work.
The detailed study by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on how the class of 2008 fared in the workplace last year reveals that the jobless rate among graduates has soared to 10pc.
Emigration is also slowly rising. And thousands are choosing to go back to college to ride out the economic storm.
Almost half (48.3pc) of arts graduates opted to continue their studies, with just 30pc managing to find work.
This is significantly higher than for any other discipline.
The HEA report said this may be due to the general perception that an arts degree provides a “stepping stone” to further study and that a second qualification will improve their prospects in the employment market.
The survey also reveals that, despite the reported shortage of scientists, just two out of five of the 2008 science graduates were working last year.
In fact, marginally more science graduates were studying for further qualifications than working – 43pc compared with 42.6pc – while almost one in 10 (9.1pc) said they were still seeking work.
Unsurprisingly, given the property collapse, architects were the worst affected, with an unemployment rate of 18.5pc in the sector. Many who did managed to find work had to settle for very low salaries.
Engineers also fared badly, with 16.3pc of the class of 2008 still looking for work nine months later.
Many of these were civil engineering graduates who were hit badly by the collapse in the construction sector.
The report acknowledges that a proportion of 2008’s graduates may not be gaining employment relevant to their qualifications, which could account for their low wages.
But HEA chair Michael Kelly said the numbers of graduates entering the workforce remained robust, which he said highlighted the importance of higher-education qualifications.
“It is through a highly trained workforce that our future economic and social wellbeing depends,” he wrote in his introduction to the report.
Exactly half of the graduates with honours degrees were working at the time of the study last year (45pc of them in Ireland and 5pc overseas), while 34pc were in further study.
The most common starting salary for those who found work in Ireland was €17,000-€24,999, compared with €21,000- €24,999 a year earlier.
The report shows the ‘seeking employment' rate for honours graduates rose from 3pc two years ago to 10pc last year.
A further 6pc were “unavailable for work”. The HEA said this may be due to the growing popularity of ‘gap' years taken by newly qualified graduates to travel or volunteer.
Despite higher academic achievements by females entering the workforce, a gender bias in salary in favour of males still persists.
More females (8.3pc) than males (4.8pc) reported earning less than €12,999 nine months after graduation.
Overall, vets are the best paid, with 80pc reporting starting salaries of more than €33,000 a year.