Careers and pay: findings from CIPD and Bank of England

The CIPD has just published its 2016 Employee Outlook.  This reports the views of over 2000 men and women on what is going well, and less well, with their careers.    A number of findings are very relevant to the Paula Principle.

The very first table shows that 35% of women report themselves as overqualified for the job they are in, compared with 27% of men.  This looks like fairly direct evidence in favour of the PP.  It could be that women are disposed to pay more attention to their level of qualification and so are inherently more likely to notice any discrepancy between this and the job they are doing.  But this doesn’t square with the fact that they express a rather higher level of satisfaction than men with their careers to date (Table 9).   So it looks as if women notice that they are overqualified but don’t let that colour their view of whether what they are doing gives them satisfaction – plus maybe a tendency to underaspire.

Several of the other results confirm what we know:  women are less motivated by wealth, and more by job satisfaction and who they work with.  But here’s a result that I found interesting:  men are far more likely (52:40) to attribute their success to an element of luck; and also to attribute a lack of success to bad luck (32:20).  I might have expected the latter, but not the former – in my experience, men are more likely to believe that they have the talent for the job, and so it’s down to their own efforts and qualities if they succeed.  Here it looks as if they believe more in chance effects on both sides.   I suppose that this fits generally with men as risk-takers;  but I found their greater willingness to acknowledge luck as a factor in success interesting.  The other part of the explanation is that women are more likely to have done the planning, and so leave less to luck.

When it comes to barriers to progression, children and  family responsibilities figure much more for women (31:8), entirely predictably.  But the other big difference is in not being able to afford to invest in getting new qualifications;  the gap here was a full 10 points (31:21), bigger than difficulty in getting the time (23:20).   Is that because women have less disposable income?  or because they have other priorities?


The Bank of England has also published a report which I thought might be relevant to the PP, on the changing composition of the workforce.  It was flagged in the press as showing a decline in the returns to graduate qualifications.

“Since 1995, the effect of having a degree on pay has fallen substantially. In 1995, a degree would on average increase wages by 45% relative to having no qualifications at all; by 2015 this premium had fallen to 34%. Over the same period, the wage premium for A-levels and GCSEs also fell, but by far less.”

Is there a gender angle on this? The BoE notes that the share of women in employment has gone up from 41% in the mid-1980s to 47% in 2015, and that there is a gender pay gap faced by women relative to men which is unexplained by socioeconomic factors like education and the industries in which they work. But they don’t make the point that these increasing numbers of women are more and more qualified relative to men.  This is the the driver which really needs attention – and from which the simple ‘equality’ debate tends, unconsciously, to divert attention.

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