GRADUATES are increasingly being forced to take lower-paid and lower-skilled jobs because of the unemployment crisis, a new study shows.
The jobs include sales, clerical work and other entry-level positions.
A confidential draft report shows that the recession has seen a return to a 1980s-style competition by higher-skilled workers for low-skilled jobs.
It reveals that the number of jobs held by people with a third-level degree increased by 25pc over the past three years.
This occurred as the number of jobs held by people with the Leaving Cert or lower levels of education plummeted.
The analysis by the National Economic and Social Council confirms that highly skilled people were less likely than lower-skilled workers to lose their jobs in the recession.
A total of 326,000 jobs were lost between 2008 and 2010, according to the draft report on unemployment and labour market measures.
Almost half of those who lost their jobs (46pc) left school before the Leaving Cert and a third finished it, while some 14pc had an honours degree.
The draft says that the number of jobs held by people with a third-level (non-honours) degree increased by 61,000 over the period in question.
"This suggests that employers are privileging applicants with some form of third-level qualification for positions where, formerly, a Leaving Certificate or its equivalent might have sufficed," it says.
The report says that when the economy was overheating there were plenty of opportunities for the the lower skilled.
But many of these have disappeared, especially for males. Almost four times as many males lost their jobs over the past few years as females.
More than half of the jobs lost by males (54pc) were in construction.
The draft has been seen by the Irish Independent which has also learned that work on the paper has effectively stalled because of government delays in appointing a new council.
The paper says many of the jobs won't come back as they were created on the basis of unsustainable policies and conditions, and counter to long-term trends.
"The loss of a job is a more severe blow than a tax increase, wage freeze or wage reduction: it frequently entails a major drop in living standards and profoundly alters the framework of a person's life," it adds.