Doctoral Dissertation

29.9.2018 M.A. Päivi Vuorinen-Lampila (Facul­ty of Educa­tion and Psyc­ho­lo­gy, Education)


29.9.2018 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Mattilanniemi , Agora Auditorio 2
M.A. Päivi Vuorinen-Lampila defends her doctoral dissertation in Education "Korkeakoulutuksen eriytyvät työelämämuutokset".

Opponent Professor Arto Jauhiainen (University of Turku) and Custos Professor Anneli Eteläpelto (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish. 



This dissertation aims to examine the differentiation of employment outcomes among Finnish higher education graduates. The starting points of the study are educational expansion, the massification of higher education and changes in the labour market (change of occupational structure, insecurity in labour market). Increased access to university has been found to intensify graduate competition in the labour market and to lead to a greater variety of employment outcomes. The outcomes are becoming increasingly differentiated according to graduates’ background characteristics (gender, age, work history) and their fields of study. This differentiation appears to be particularly prominent in countries such as Finland, where the proportion of higher education graduates is extremely high. In the theoretical framework of the study, a higher education degree is understood as a resource which can be utilised in the labour market. The resource viewpoint is formed by signalling theory, indicating that a higher education degree is used by employers as a signal that conveys information about a potential employee’s capabilities. In addition, work experience has become an important signal for employers, but gender and age can also be used as signals. From a resource perspective, signalling theory is complemented by indications of the different role of higher education degrees in professional and general fields of study and in the public and private employment sectors. Furthermore, gender segregation is understood as a mechanism that differentiates how a higher education degree can be utilised as a resource in the labour market. In particular, the study focuses on the following research questions: 1) How is the field of study related to the differentiation of employment outcomes? 2) How do the outcomes diverge by gender, and what differences are found in gender effect between fields of study, between completed degrees and by higher education sector? 3) How is the employment sector related to employment outcomes, and does the relation differ between genders? 4) How do graduates’ previous education and age (young graduates/adults) relate to the employment outcomes?

The study adopts a quantitative approach. The data formed three datasets. The first (n = 1263) and second (n = 2154) datasets were gathered through questionnaires completed by those who graduated from universities and universities of applied sciences (former polytechnics) in the years 2003 and 2005. The third dataset (n = 3320) was collected by Statistics Finland from the administrative registers (Student Register, Register of Educational Qualifications, Employment Statistics, Register of Population). The sample covered those university entrants in 2001 who had completed a master’s degree and were employed by the end of 2009. Statistical methods were used in the analysis of the data (descriptive statistics, chi-square and F-tests, analysis of variance, logistic regression). The results show that not all higher education graduates were rewarded with high employment outcomes. There was a strong divergence between fields of study in both higher education sectors. Gender differences were notable in general as well as within fields of study. Men had the advantage of gender despite the gender distribution by field of study. In terms of gender, university master’s degree holders had more equal employment outcomes than polytechnic graduates did. A higher degree, therefore, seemed to compensate for the gender effect. The employment sector had a significant role in the differentiation of graduate employment outcomes. It was related to field of study as well as to gender. Thus, those three factors were intertwined. Public sector employment provided both advantages and disadvantages for women. It enhanced female graduates’ professional employment more than it did male graduates’. On the other hand, temporary employment contracts were typical in the public sector, where women were more frequently placed than men were. In terms of graduates’ previous education, no difference was found in their employment outcomes. In contrast, age was connected to graduates’ wages. Adult graduates earned more than young graduates in most fields of study. Age as such did not enhance wage level, yet it indicated that older graduates had a longer work history (based on their previous vocational degree). Longer work experience was rewarded with a higher wage level.

Empirically, the increased differences in graduate employment outcomes can be explained by differences in educational expansion between fields of study in Finland, by the increased role of the private sector in graduate employment and by the polarisation of the labour market. In theoretical terms, a higher education degree, conceptualised as a divergent resource in the labour market, contains the assumption that employment outcomes are not identical for all degree holders.