Is a university degree as important as it used to be?
I recently took a look at the increase in university-educated population and tried to see the correlation with income levels. I am grumpy with some U.S. economists who seem to infer that university education will solve the problem of unemployment and income disparity. I personally am not sure that encouraging a short order cook, construction worker, retail sales clerk or janitor to get a university degree will alter their income potential that much – assuming they stay in those occupations of course. In addition, economies need these jobs so not everyone will be able to work in a professional occupation. I realize this is a complex argument with many contours but that is exactly why I don’t like the simplicity some folks are bringing to it.
BC was second best in Canada for growth in its university educated population and second worst for wage growth (among the 10 provinces). The province has more than doubled its enrollments in university (from 1999 to 2009) and saw an 18 percent decline in college level enrollments.
At the same time, sectors such as retail sales, accommodation and food service, construction and administrative support services accounted for nearly 60 percent of the net employment growth from 2000 to 2010. These sectors are far more likely to require college or trades education than university education.
Food for thought.
Growth in university educated population and average weekly wages (2000 to 2010)*
|10 Year Avg. Weekly Wage Growth||10 Year Growth in University Educated Population|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||50%||35%|
|Prince Edward Island||45%||84%|
*those with a university degree.
Sources: Statistics Canada CANSIM Tables 282-0072 and 282-0004.