Spain has highest percentage of overqualified workers within EU

by Lorraine Williamson
overqualified workers

Spain is the EU country with the highest percentage of overqualified workers, at almost 36% – meaning they are in jobs that require a lower level of education than they have.  

This worrying figure is shown by several studies. World Order’s research explains that this Spanish percentage often translates “into low wages and worse working conditions for workers”. This, in turn, often leads to demotivation at work, and consequently, job dissatisfaction. It also shows that women are more often overqualified than men.  

In 2022, the percentage of overqualified workers in the EU as a whole was 22.2%, with 21.4% for men and 22.9% for women. Following Spain, with a rate of 35.9%, are Greece (32.4%), Cyprus (31.8%) and Ireland (28.5%). The countries where the level of education best matches the job are Luxembourg (6.8%), Sweden (13.6%) and Denmark (14.3%). 

Women versus men 

In 19 of the 27 EU member states, women have a higher rate of overqualification than men. The biggest differences are in Malta (11%), Cyprus (8%), Italy and Slovakia (both around 7%). On the other hand, men have a higher rate of overqualification in 8 countries, a situation particularly striking in the Baltic States: Lithuania (5 points), Estonia and Latvia (both by about 4 points). Furthermore, in Spain, the gender gap has been reduced to 1.9% by 2022, according to Eurostat data. Interestingly, Spain is one of the countries with the smallest gender gap. 

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High percentage of university graduates in Spain 

A study by Funcas, the banking foundations think tank chaired by Isidre Fainé, shows that Spain is one of the countries with the highest percentage of university graduates in the workforce. The study (The transition from university to work and the phenomenon of overqualification in Spain, 2021) suggests that just over a third of graduates consider themselves overqualified in their first job, while five years later this drops to one in five. 

Graduates in the health sciences are the least poorly qualified, while in the arts and humanities, 33% of graduates are overqualified in their jobs. Of these workers, 70% were paid less than €1,500 a month (2021 data). 

Furthermore, the Funcas survey also mentions that overqualification is more common in small companies, with up to 10 employees, where one in three suffer from this situation; than in large companies, with more than 250 employees, where the percentage drops to 18%. 

Also read: Pay gap between genders will not disappear until 2064

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