Integration of graduates into the labour market

The transition from university to working life is relatively easy for nearly half the graduates of the University of Lisbon, according to a report based on a 2004 survey on the subject. On average, female graduates take longer to find their first job, and male graduates earn more than their female counterparts in the last job declared. Most respondents are satisfied with several aspects of their jobs and aim to achieve a good work–life balance.

According to the report Academic and occupational entry paths of University of Lisbon graduates 1999–2003 (in Portuguese, 1.9Mb PDF) (Trajectórias Académicas e de Inserção Profissional dos Licenciados pela Universidade de Lisboa 1999–2003), female graduates who obtained their degree between 1999 and 2003 at the University of Lisbon (Universidade de Lisboa) experienced more difficulty in finding their first job than their male counterparts. The report was based on a 2004 survey (see below for details of methodology).

Moreover, when the women are successful in finding a job, they seem to get paid less than men. Perhaps not in their first job, but in the last job declared by the survey respondents, it appears that female graduates earn €140 less on average per month (net salary) than male graduates.

First job search

The report confirms that, despite the deteriorating economic situation, the transition from university to the labour force was a relatively fast and simple process for nearly half of the survey participants. Almost 46% of new graduates started to work immediately, especially graduates of medicine, physics, computer sciences and pharmacy. Nevertheless, 40.4% of graduates took up to a year to find their first job, which included even higher proportions among those with degrees in geography, mathematics, sculpture and art, design, educational sciences, psychology and dentistry. The remaining 13.6% of newly qualified graduates took more than a year to get their first job, and in the meantime joined the group of long-term unemployed people; among this group were graduates of philosophy, geology, history and psychology.

However, the transition process from university to working life is quicker for male graduates. While the proportion of male and female graduates who immediately secured their first job is similar, the transition time otherwise tends to be generally longer for female graduates (Table 1).

Table 1: First job search, by sex (%)
Female graduates take longer to find their first job
  Continued studying Stayed in same job* Started to work immediately Seeking job for 1–6 months Seeking job for 6–12 months Seeking job for more than a year Still searching for job
Male 13.5 7.8 38.4 24.3 6.8 3.2 5.8
Female 12.0 4.5 37.3 25.5 8.4 3.9 8.4

* These cases refer to graduates who started working while they were still studying.

Source: Alves, N., Academic and occupational insertion trajectories of the University of Lisbon graduates 1999–2003, University of Lisbon, 2005

Occupational entry process and pay gap

The report also highlights the fact that female graduates start to experience a pay gap during their initial labour market integration. The stated remuneration level in 2004 reveals that, while the proportion of male graduates is higher among those who earn more than €1,000 a month, the percentage of female graduates is higher among those earning €1,000 or less a month. The pay gap widens even further for those earning €500 or less a month (see Figure).

Male graduates declared that they earn, on average, a monthly net salary of €1,106.40 compared to €966.70 for female graduates in their current jobs. This trend suggests that pay discrimination takes place during the labour market integration of graduates and affects primarily female graduates.

Figure: Graduate pay levels in October 2004, by sex (%)


Source: Based on Alves, 2005.

Job satisfaction among graduates

In general, the graduates surveyed expressed themselves ‘satisfied’ or ‘completely satisfied’ with several work-related aspects of their jobs in 2004 (Table 2). The single aspect in which most respondents declared themselves ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘completely dissatisfied’ was the possibility for ‘promotion/career opportunities’. In relation to this particular job aspect, female graduates expressed an even lower level of satisfaction than men: the female average in this regard was 2.33 against a male average of 2.45 in a scale ranging from 1 – completely dissatisfied to 4 – completely satisfied.

Table 2: Satisfaction level with several job aspects (%)
Graduates are satisfied with most aspects of their jobs
  Completely satisfied Satisfied Dissatisfied Completely dissatisfied
Job stability 19.0 33.4 27.0 20.6
Remuneration level 6.7 44.0 37.3 12.0
Promotion/career opportunities 9.7 35.1 36.5 18.7
Autonomy 28.4 50.7 17.3 3.6
Interest in job 48.1 40.2 9.0 2.8
Relations with colleagues 44.3 46.5 7.5 1.6
Social usefulness 49.2 40.7 7.9 2.1
Working hours 31.6 46.8 16.5 5.1
Access to training 24.5 38.1 25.7 11.7

Source: Alves, 2005.

Most graduates do not allow their work to overlap or affect other dimensions of their personal life. Some 57.2% of respondents mentioned that they work a lot but do not allow it to interfere with their life (see Table 3). These figures associated with the fact that work comes third in the order of importance given to several aspects of life – after family and friends – confirm the relative central place given to work in modern Portuguese society.

Table 3: Attitude towards occupation (%)
Most graduates do not allow their work to interfere with their personal life
I only do what I have to 5.4
I work a lot but I don’t let it interfere with the rest of my life 57.2
I insist on working the best I can, even if it interferes with my life 37.4

Source: Alves, 2005.

Note on methodology

The survey was directed at all University of Lisbon students who graduated between 1999 and 2003. Some 8,107 questionnaires were sent by mail and, by 15 October 2004, a total of 2,216 were received correctly completed, corresponding to a 27.3% response rate.

The questionnaire comprised 84 questions, covering a large set of data such as social and demographic characteristics, references to university studies and to subsequent labour market integration.

It should be noted that 7.4% of the respondents were living outside of Portugal when the survey was carried out, a higher percentage than in the previous survey covering the period between 1994 and 1998, when only 1.2% of respondents lived abroad.

Jorge Cabrita, CESIS

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