Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected the graduate job market?

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In just a few days, we will receive detailed information on the results of the Polish matriculation exams. It will be a difficult time for the many high school graduates who have not decided what major they want to pursue. Those who seek to make more informative choices can rely on the data included in the eighth edition of the Polish Graduate Tracking System (ELA), which has been published recently by the National Information Processing Institute (OPI). The updated data helps discern which university majors are among the most lucrative within five years of graduation. Of particular interest in 2023 is the data on graduates in internal and national security. Has the ongoing war in Ukraine affected their job prospects?

Higher education, higher earnings

On 6 June, 2023, OPI, acting on behalf of the Polish Ministry of Education and Science (MEiN), launched the eighth edition of ELA. The new data provides compelling information on the labour market in Poland, including insights on the most financially rewarding majors with the least potential for unemployment. ELA also provides data on PhD graduates and students who combine their studies with work.

‘ELA was developed on behalf of MEiN. The system can be used as a powerful tool for reliable and objective analysis of the graduate labour market. ELA data enables quick and easy access to any information that is crucial for planning professional careers. The system offers guidance to anyone interested in discovering which majors are in high demand and offer attractive salaries,’ says Przemysław Czarnek, the Polish Minister of Education and Science.

‘ELA provides a multitude of practical data on the current situation on the labour market, which is particularly useful to young people who are choosing their fields of study. ELA assists them in making more deliberate and informative decisions, and in shaping their ideas about careers in various professions,’ adds Mr Czarnek.

The newest ELA data confirms that regardless of graduation year, graduates’ earnings in consecutive years following graduation are growing faster than average salaries in their regions of residence. The bottom line is that studying pays off.

‘According to the European Commission, ELA is one of the most advanced system in Europe. Our solutions are regarded as exemplary. We were the first to supplement labour market data with earnings and unemployment rates. The system stores data on all students who pursue degrees at higher education institutions in Poland. ELA has processed information on over 2.7 million graduates, and this number is growing every year,’ says Dr Jarosław Protasiewicz, Head of OPI. ‘ELA is innovative and user-friendly. It generates reports, rankings, and infographics to suit users’ needs. A free-of-charge mobile application is also available,’ addsMr Czarnek.

Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine increased demand for workers in the uniformed services?

ELA data reveals that an increasing number of security graduates are pursuing careers in the uniformed services. It is worth emphasising, however, that only a third of second-cycle graduates and a fifth of first-cycle graduates embark on professions in sectors that correspond to their academic disciplines.

‘It could be expected that the increased demand for security graduates in the uniformed services is a direct result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine; data suggests, however, that no departure from previous trends in the employment of security personnel can be observed. It is worth noting that ELA can provide data on only a single cohort, which comprises graduates who obtained their degrees and entered the workforce following the outbreak of the war,’ explains Dr Mikołaj Jasiński, expert at OPI.

Unsurprisingly, men demonstrate stronger preferences than women for entering uniformed service. In 2021, of first-cycle graduates in security, 33.4% of men and 7.4% of women became members of the uniformed services. Compared to 2017, those values increased by ten percentage points and four percentage points, respectively.

Second-cycle graduates demonstrate a stronger preference for joining the uniformed services than first-cycle graduates do. ELA data suggests that over half of male and approximately a sixth of female graduates of security who pursued second-cycle programmes in 2021 entered service. The uniformed services are becoming more appealing to second-cycle graduates—as they already are to first-cycle graduates. Between 2017 and 2021, the number of second-cycle graduates grew by just over seven percentage points among men and nearly eight percentage points among women.

A significantly larger share of female security graduates in the uniformed services

‘The considerable increase in the percentage of women who entered service after earning degrees in security is corroborated by relative data. Between 2017 and 2021, the share of female graduates who entered service soared by 123%, while the share of male ones increased only by 39%,’ says Dr Agnieszka Chłoń-Domińczak, professor at SGH and expert at OPI.

Significant differences were also observed in the case of second-cycle programmes. The percentage of women with degrees in security who entered service almost doubled between 2017 and 2021; the share of men increased by 16%. The growing interest in the uniformed services among women was particularly noticeable between 2019 and 2021,’ adds Dr Chłoń-Domińczak.

Are women in the uniformed services paid as much as men?

To supplement the assessment of the career prospects of male and female graduates in security, each group’s earnings were investigated further. The comparison of earnings included graduates who had gained no professional experience prior to completing their studies, and whose first jobs were ones in the uniformed services. The reason for adopting this approach was that some graduates were required to earn their degrees to be able to continue their service, and that their earnings already included benefits for time served and ranks attained.

‘Based on the ELA data, there are no significant variations in the incomes of male and female graduates who secured their first jobs in the first year following graduation. Throughout the monitoring period, first- and second-cycle graduates earned approximately 60–65% of the average salary in Poland. This trend does not change significantly over years,’ says Dr Marek Bożykowski,expert at OPI.

It is worth noting, however, that the relative earnings of the total population of graduates who had gained no professional experience before graduation were lower in the first year following graduation than those of graduates in security without prior professional experience. In 2021, the relative earnings of first-cycle graduates in security were 48% for women and 57% for men. The relative earnings of second-cycle graduates in security were 57% for women and 67% for men,’ adds Dr Bożykowski.

The difference is particularly noticeable among first-cycle graduates. The absence of the gender pay gap means that the uniformed services sector is more attractive to women than other sectors, in which female graduates who major in other fields frequently earn less than men.