Employment by qualification level

Published

Last updated 20 August 2019 - see all updates

1. Main facts and figures

  • 87% of 16 to 64 year olds with a level 4 qualification (equivalent to degree level) or above were in employment in 2018
  • this dropped to 82% for those with 2 or more A levels (or another level 3 qualification), and 75% for those with 5 or more GCSE passes (or another level 2 qualification)
  • at all qualification levels, White 16 to 64 year olds were more likely to be employed than those from all other ethnic groups
  • among those with no qualifications, people from the Black and White ethnic groups were the most likely to be in employment
  • among men, Asian men had the highest employment rate of all ethnic groups, at 84%
  • in all ethnic groups, men were more likely to be employed than women
  • among men, Asian men had the highest employment rate of all ethnic groups, at 84%
Things you need to know

The data for this analysis comes from the Annual Population Survey (APS). The APS surveys a random sample of the population to make generalisations about the whole population.

The commentary for this data includes only reliable findings. Findings are reliable ('statistically significant’) when we can be confident they are reflective of the total population. This means we would get similar findings 19 times out of 20 if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population.

As with all surveys, the estimates from the APS are subject to a degree of uncertainty as they are based on a sample of the population.

Ethnic minority groups tend to have a smaller number of survey respondents. As a result, their estimates are less reliable than those for White people.

Results taken from a low number of responses are more likely to change from year to year. What appear to be changes over time might not reflect real differences. Please use caution when interpreting short-term trends in the data, especially for small groups.

Values based on fewer than 30 responses have been withheld from results for 'All' groups. Values based on fewer than 100 responses have been withheld from results for specific ethnic groups. This is both:

  • to protect respondents’ confidentiality
  • because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions

This data gives detailed breakdowns such as information by local authority area. Higher-level figures may differ from those published by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics that use the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

The ethnic groupings used here are broad. There is no breakdown of data for the more specific ethnic groups, whose experiences might be very different to one another. For example, the Black ethnic group could include both:

  • recent migrants from Somalia
  • Black people born in Britain to British parents
What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of 16 to 64 year olds who are employed and not in full time education.

This is broken down by their highest level of qualification and ethnicity.

‘Employed’ includes people who are:

  • in paid work (as an employee or self-employed)
  • temporarily away from their job
  • on a government-supported training and employment programme
  • doing unpaid family work

Qualification level refers to someone's highest qualification, from the following:

  • level 4 or higher: degree level or equivalent (including HND, Bachelor degree and Master degree)
  • level 3: two or more A levels or equivalent (including advanced GNVQ, NVQ 3 or higher, and Scottish higher or advanced higher)
  • level 2: five or more GCSE passes at grades A* to C (or 9 to 4) or equivalent (including intermediate GNVQ, NVQ 2, and Scottish intermediate 2)
  • below level 2: fewer than 5 GCSE passes at grades A* to C (or 9-4) or equivalent (including foundation GNVQ, NVQ 1, and Scottish intermediate 1)
  • no qualifications

Trade apprenticeships are treated as being 50% NVQ level 2 and 50% NVQ level 3. This is in line with Office for National Statistics guidelines.

In the charts and tables, ‘other qualifications’ include:

  • qualifications from outside the UK
  • some professional qualifications where the level is not clear
The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of people surveyed was too small to draw any reliable conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 5 broad ethnic groups used in the 2011 Census:

  • Asian or Asian British
  • Black or Black British
  • Mixed
  • White (including White ethnic minorities)
  • Other

The data in the download file is also broken down by 2 ethnic groups:

  • White – White ethnic groups (including White British and White ethnic minorities)
  • Other – all other ethnic minorities

2. By qualification level and ethnicity

Percentage of people aged 16 to 64 years who were employed and not in full-time education, by ethnicity and qualification level
Highest qualification held All Asian Black Mixed White Other
All 78% 71% 73% 73% 79% 69%
Level 4 and above 87% 84% 84% 86% 87% 78%
Level 3 82% 73% 74% 71% 83% 63%
Level 2 75% 60% 63% 61% 76% 66%
Below Level 2 70% 58% 62% 61% 72% 57%
Other qualifications 76% 65% 71% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 79% 66%
No qualifications 48% 42% 51% 36% 49% 45%

Download table data for ‘By qualification level and ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By qualification level and ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Employment by qualification level By qualification level and ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • 87% of 16 to 64 year olds with a degree (or other level 4 qualification) or above were in employment in 2018
  • this dropped to 82% of those with 2 or more A levels (or another level 3 qualification), and 75% for those with 5 or more GCSE passes (or another level 2 qualification)
  • 79% of White 16 to 64 year olds were employed, the highest percentage out of all ethnic groups
  • among those with no qualifications, Black (51%) and White (49%) people were the most likely to be in employment out of all ethnic groups
  • in every ethnic group, men were more likely to be employed than women

3. By ethnicity and qualification level (men only)

Percentage of men aged 16 to 64 years who were employed and not in full-time education, by ethnicity and qualification level
Highest qualification held All Asian Black Mixed White Other
All 83% 84% 79% 77% 83% 79%
Level 4 and above 90% 92% 87% 88% 90% 86%
Level 3 87% 87% 77% 75% 87% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Level 2 80% 72% 69% 70% 81% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Below Level 2 78% 76% 71% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 78% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other qualifications 84% 85% 81% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 84% 82%
No qualifications 57% 65% 64% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 56% 58%

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (men only)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (men only)’ (CSV)

Summary of Employment by qualification level By ethnicity and qualification level (men only) Summary

This data shows that:

  • among men, Asian men had the highest employment rate of all ethnic groups in 2018, at 84%
  • among men with a degree (or another level 4 qualification or above), Asian men had the highest employment rate (at 92%), followed by White men (90%)
  • among men with 5 or more GCSE passes (or another level 2 qualification), White men had the highest employment rate (at 81%), followed by Asian men (72%)
  • among men with no qualifications, Asian men had the highest employment rate (at 65%) and White men had the lowest (at 56%)
  • although the table and chart show other differences, some of the results are based on small numbers of people so caution should be taken when making generalisations

4. By ethnicity and qualification level (women only)

Percentage of women aged 16 to 64 years who were employed and not in full-time education, by ethnicity and qualification level
Highest qualification held All Asian Black Mixed White Other
All 73% 57% 68% 68% 75% 59%
Level 4 and above 83% 75% 81% 84% 85% 72%
Level 3 78% 61% 71% 65% 79% 50%
Level 2 69% 49% 58% 52% 71% 59%
Below Level 2 63% 41% 54% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 65% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other qualifications 65% 45% 59% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 70% 49%
No qualifications 38% 19% 40% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 41% 33%

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (women only)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (women only)’ (CSV)

Summary of Employment by qualification level By ethnicity and qualification level (women only) Summary

This data shows that:

  • at every qualification level (including no qualifications), White women were more likely to be employed than women from any other ethnic group
  • 85% of White women with a degree (or another level 4 qualification) were employed, compared with 75% of Asian women and 81% of Black women
  • although the table and chart show other differences, some of the results are based on small numbers of people so caution should be taken when making generalisations

5. Methodology

The Annual Population Survey is a continuous household survey. Most people are interviewed in person first, and later by telephone.

The sample is formed from:

  • waves 1 and 5 of the Labour Force Survey (in which selected addresses are contacted every 3 months)
  • boost cases that are in the sample for 4 waves, spread one year apart

Participants are randomly selected from the Royal Mail postcode address file. The NHS communal accommodation list is also used and (in the case of remote parts of Scotland) telephone directories. All eligible individuals found at the selected address may be interviewed.

People are included in the dataset for this analysis if they respond themselves or if a family member responds on their behalf. The complex survey design has been taken into account when calculating confidence intervals.

Weighting:

The sample of approximately 275,000 people undergoes weighting at local authority level, using age and sex dimensions.

Weighting adjusts the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and make them more reliable.

For example, a survey of 25 women and 75 men will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which is around 50% male and 50% female.

The weighting for this data is based on Office for National Statistics population statistics.

Confidence intervals:

Confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available if you download the data.

The APS is based on a sample of 16 to 64 year olds, rather than all 16 to 64 year olds in England, Wales and Scotland.

This page includes only reliable estimates ('statistically significant’) of the percentage of 16 to 64 year olds who were employed. However, it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

For example, based on the APS results, it’s estimated that 48.6% of White 16 to 64 year olds who had no educational qualifications were employed in 2018.

It is 95% certain that between 47.7% and 49.5% of White 16 to 64 year olds with no educational qualifications were employed in 2018. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100, the estimate would fall in this range. But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.

The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer Asian 16 to 64 year olds responded to the survey, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group.

Statistically significant findings have been determined where the 95% confidence intervals of an ethnic group do not overlap with the confidence interval for the group they're being compared with.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

In data covering all ethnic groups together, estimates based on sample sizes of less than 30 have been suppressed. For data broken down by ethnic groups, estimates based on sample sizes under 100 have been suppressed.

‘Suppression’ means these figures have not been included in the data, to protect confidentiality and because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions.

Breaking the figures down by gender reduces sample sizes further and makes the figures less reliable.

Data has been suppressed at some qualification levels for the Mixed and Other groups because of the very small numbers.

Rounding

Estimates in the charts and tables are rounded to whole percentages. Estimates in the download file are rounded to 1 decimal place.

Quality and methodology information

6. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Office for National Statistics

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The main purpose of the Annual Population Survey (APS) is to provide good quality estimates about the UK workforce.

It is the largest household study in the UK based on how many people it’s sent to and how in depth the questions are. It provides the official measures of employment and unemployment.

The survey measures all elements of people's work, including:

  • the education and training needed to equip them for work
  • features of their jobs
  • unemployment and jobseeking
  • income from work and benefits

7. Download the data