Wednesday, July 09, 2003

A tale of two graduate employment markets

From the Graduate Careers Council of Australia media release, and the Herald-Sun’s adoption of the same upbeat tone, it appears that the graduate employment market in Australia is quite rosy. The fact that graduate women’s starting salaries are still slightly below that of their male counterparts still gets a run in this version – but this is one of those evergreen factlets, especially useful for annual stories, such as the release of the latest GCCA figures.

The Age’s opening line was similarly upbeat:

Starting salaries for new university graduates have reached a record high, but the gap between men and women remains.

True to the rosy version template, The Age prattled on a while about the reasons for the gap between men and women (so predictable as to be itself evergreen) and even had a separate-bylined side-story on this topic, which quoted a 23 y.o.graduate working at an accounting firm, on the difference between men’s and women’s brains. The main Age story did, however, show some signs of life (= basic factual research and an interview with the key person) towards its end:

Last year the average graduate salary was nearly 83 per cent of average weekly earnings but the year before it was 86 per cent.

A reasonably important fact – you may think – but not one mentioned in the GCCA media release.

On the other hand, the SMH’s opening line both expressed the key fact, and put it in some kind of policy context:

The power of a university degree to pull a larger starting pay packet is steadily slipping despite federal government claims that graduates have a significantly greater earning capacity, a study shows.

To its probable credit, the SMH also managed to bypass completely the tired old issue about gender differences.

Finally, the Australian Financial Review* (no URL) opened with this quite pessimistic, but impeccably-sourced assessment :

The flood of graduates entering the workforce has forced many to take clerical level jobs or enter small business, says the Graduate Careers Council of Australia.

Which does indeed make the gender gap (which has fallen back from an all-time (1998) peak of ~ 97% to ~95% last year, as the Fin duly informs us) rather academic. And it also makes The Age’s banishing of the real story on graduate career prospects, to a few lines near the end, rather curious. One possible explanation is that, as this angle must logically mean that some of the next generation of would-be Age readers are now heading straight for the lower middle class (or worse) it is best not to scare the horses … oops, I mean, the advertisers.

* “Flood of graduates squeezes out school-leavers” by Kate Marshall AFR 9 July 2003

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