Meet the Millennial Asian: Over-educated + Under-employed

If you are a Millennial Asian, the newspapers think you are pretty pathetic. Looking at the numbers, you have earned more degrees than anyone else in your family,  are up to your neck in education debt, you are chronically under-employed and will stay so for the foreseeable future.

Yes. Under-employed.

Investopedia defines this phenomenon like so:

Labor that falls under the underemployment classification includes those workers that are highly skilled but working in low paying jobs, workers that are highly skilled but work in low skill jobs and part-time workers that would prefer to be full-time.

The market has few jobs to offer the growing legions of fresh grads and the ones available fail to offer much of anything: little money, little career growth and little in terms of security. These handful of jobs are not what you aspired to back in college. It is highly likely you will be delivering goods ordered online or managing a social media campaign for the local non-profit organisation until a “Real Job” opportunity turns up.

Let’s suppose that you finally get a chance to interview for a “Real Job”.  As a fresh grad  you are facing competition from the people who graduated years before you and have relevant work experience to show for it.

Jobs available in the government sector are scarce, practically impossible to access unless one has a ‘link’ (how I loathe that practice)  and the benefits hardly ever compensate for the dismal pay.

Gordon Orr warns China’s fresh graduates that even the low-barrier, entry-level careers  in bank telling or insurance agencies are going obsolete. Technologies like AliPay and WeChat have streamlined basic banking tasks and banks will soon be a thing of the past – much like post offices.

…there may be new jobs but they are just not the jobs you set your heart on when you went to university: low pay and low security is a poisonous combination of many of the new jobs in China’s “rebalancing economy”.

Orr suggests brushing up on vocational skills that may come into play in the emerging sectors, like learning coding or other such I.T. wizardry. If nothing else, it is suggested that a fresh grad like you should start a business and embrace self-employment as your fate.

The fastest growth category of urban employment in recent years has been self-employment.  While some of this is likely a cute way of describing unemployed, the broader trend that it represents is the growth of small and mid-sized enterprises and their importance to job creation in the economy. 

Next up is the “Has Pakistan overeducated it’s middle class?” article that appeared on Dawn’s website about two days back.  The lack of congruency between the education Pakistani universities are churning out and the jobs available is painfully apparent for anyone who been through a hiring cycle. Not only is the quality of education suspect, the graduates are ill-prepared for the rigours of the job-search and interview process. I am in complete agreement that there need to be university-based career prep centres at both public and private universities. Private universities barely scratch the surface when it comes to preparing their students for the corporate/real world. A mandatory 2 hour workshop in the last week of university does not suffice.  I recommend universities to start students on mandatory courses that cover internship seeking, c.v. writing and interviewing skills from freshman year.

The author, Murtaza Haider,  makes a valid point about how loosely underemployment is tallied and also how faulty the premise is regarding what constitutes a ‘living wage’.

My primary concern is about how the state defines underemployment.

The state considers those working for fewer than 35 hours in a given week as underemployed. This definition assumes that those working for 35 hours or more in a given week are gainfully employed, i.e., they are earning enough to support their families.

The under and unemployment figures are quite meaningless for struggling economies like Pakistan. Even by the government’s estimates, 60 million Pakistanis, 29.5 per cent of the population, live below the poverty line. Experts at Oxford University estimate a much larger proportion of Pakistanis (44 per cent) to be poor.

Thus, boasting about low unemployment rates is rather futile because a large proportion of those considered employed by the government are not earning enough to feed and clothe their families.

Lastly, here is an article from the World Economic Forum warning us that for the millennials post-graduate degrees may be a waste of money.  Lux Alptraum shares that despite belonging to a family accustomed to collecting degrees (the way some collect shares) she ultimately decided not to seek a postgraduate degree.  For her, the math simply didn’t add up!

Every time I’ve considered going back to school, I’ve done a cost-benefit analysis—and for me, that analysis has never worked out in academia’s favor. My law school dreams died when it occurred to me that the kind of do-gooder law I was interested in would likely leave me in debt for the rest of my life (and also when I realized that “liking to argue” is but a small part of a law career). My potential public health degree stopped making sense when I realized the small salary bump I might secure wouldn’t balance out the money—and time–I’d spend getting the Master’s.

As a fellow Millennial Asian, I feel your anguish.

ice-cream-cry

I also sense your need to reach for the nearest tub of ice cream to drown your sorrows.   Hold off on that for a second.  There has to be a Plan B.

Will it be running our very own Food Truck? Maybe.

Can it be starting up a coaching centre for the chronically under-employed and helping them loosen up via improv sessions?  Could be.

The beacon of hope lies in our ability to carve out careers, create brands  and provide services in emerging markets – despite the nay-sayers and dismal statistics. 

Drop me a tweet @marsonearth.

I write about financial empowerment, digital literacy, and educational technology at my blog called Catalyst Woman.  Who am I? I once described myself as a Communications consultant who conducts trainings focused on Women’s Empowerment, Employability Skills and Educational Innovation.

Seminar on Empowering Women Coming Up!

Catalyst Woman is going to Faisalabad!  My team is super-excited to be invited to speak at National Textile University-Faisalabad by the Rector, Dr. Arshad Ali.

CW NTU Session FB

Selecting the Perfect University: Online Virtual Tours or Education Expos? (The University Bazaar Blog Series)

Selecting the Perfect University

Does selecting a university ever get easier? I remember being overwhelmed by all the decisions to make when the process began.  Where can I find a scholarship? How far away from home do I want to go? Can I afford this university? I can afford this one, but what to do if it does not have the degree program I want?

So.Many.Questions.

I have just made it back from The News Education Expo in Lahore and have more than a couple of observations to share. The crowds, mostly teenagers and twenty-somethings with their families, were busy browsing the stalls for the Perfect University. Theoretically, this sounds like a straight-forward affair; you walk up to the university representative, get all your questions answered and receive a complimentary pen, as well.

In reality, it was absolute chaos in the basement of Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel. If you haven’t been to the PC Hotel, the basement consists of a series of banquet halls opening into a narrow main hall.  Various universities and colleges had set up shop throughout and were closely packed together; differentiating between the representatives became a chore!  Trying to start a conversation or ask a question was challenging as the overworked representatives tried their hardest to answer serious queries from the impatient crowd.

What I witnessed today is a University Bazaar where competing educational institutions hawk degrees and dreams to uninformed students and their loved ones. There is little to be gained but a handful of shiny brochures.

Q. Is there any value in attending such Educational Expos? 

A.  Only if you know what kind of educational experience you are shopping for and are prepared to be patient. 

The truth is that these events are nothing more than easy revenue-makers for the organisers.  Once the stalls are booked, little else is taken care of; this is evident by the sloppy arrangements and the criss-cross of exposed wiring over the carpets.  Not only do the students suffer from the poor organisation,but so do the educational institutions who regularly spend their marketing budgets on them.

Online Virtual Tours or Education Expos?

So, if we strike off education expos from our list when searching for the perfect university, what is the next best option?

With social media platforms getting easier to navigate by the day, it makes sense to turn to the internet when conducting any kind of serious research. I would strongly suggest opting for online virtual tours of the universities and colleges you are considering at the moment.

Pre-recorded tours, complete with audio, guide website visitors through the campus; this is extremely important when the colleges you are considering are in far-off locations, like the United States or  the United Kingdom.   Rather than chatting it up with a disinterested staff member at an overcrowded expo, try your hand at a informational webinar. These web-based seminars allow prospective students from across the globe to log-on and take part in question-and-answer sessions with the university’s administration and admissions team – for free! What better way to understand the culture but by having a conversation?

Take my word – set aside some time for an old-fashioned Google search and a list of questions. You are bound to narrow down the options to find your Perfect University, with the help of simple technology at your fingertips! 

This is the first post in the The University Bazaar Blog Series by Catalyst Woman.