Number of people with university degrees trebles in 40 years

IT is a popular career choice for university graduates. Photo:
IT is a popular career choice for university graduates. Photo:

The number of people with university degrees in the Netherlands has trebled in the last 40 years, according to a new report by statistics agency CBS.

More than one in three people (36%) are classed as ‘higher educated’, meaning they have graduated with an undergraduate degree or diploma. In 1981 the proportion was one in nine (11%).

At the same time, the proportion of ‘low educated’ workers, with a practical qualification, has fallen to 26% of the population, while the ‘medium educated’ group accounts for the remaining 38%.

IT, management and healthcare were the most popular career choices for graduates, while the number of graduate social workers has also increased.

CBS said the development reflected the Netherlands’ and the EU’s strategy of becoming a ‘knowledge economy’ built on research and development, as tasks previously carried out by low-skilled workers are increasingly automated.

However, there was also growing demand for skilled manual workers such as plumbers, builders and hospital staff, leading to questions about whether the balance had tipped too far towards theoretical education at the expense of practical training.

Four in five people with a university education were economically active in 2020, slightly up from 78% in 2013, but the CBS also said growing numbers of graduates were employed in jobs that were traditionally filled by ‘medium educated’ college graduates, such as administration and secretarial work.

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