Problem: According to employers, finding sufficiently qualified personnel can be a challenge.
Fact: About half of all Russian employees consider themselves overqualified for their current job. This perception affects their level of job satisfaction and leads them on a search for more suitable employment.
Elena Varshavskaya, professor of the HSE Graduate School of Business, studied the extent of perceived qualification mismatch among Russian employees, its contributing factors and implications.
She used microdata from the Comprehensive Living Conditions Survey (CLCS) conducted by Rosstat in 2018. Her findings are consistent with those reported in other post-Soviet countries: about half of all employed Russians perceive a mismatch between their qualifications and current job responsibilities.
Having received professional education and training of any kind is the key factor increasing the likelihood of perceived overqualification; this, in turn, undermines job satisfaction and can lead people to seek another job that better matches their skills, thus contributing to high employee turnover. Varshavskaya's findings are published in Sotsiologicheskie Issledovaniia.
The problem of qualification mismatch came into research focus during the late 2000s. According to Varshavskaya, papers published in the last 10 to 15 years have explored various aspects of qualification mismatch such as scale and impact on salaries and organisational behaviour, and have identified three types of mismatch between worker characteristics and labour market requirements:
working in a job which does not match one's level of education;
working in a different job than one was trained for;
working in a job which does not match one's qualifications and skills.
Various theories have been proposed to explain skills mismatch. 'Most empirical research is based on the job assignment theory suggesting that skills mismatches in the labour market are caused by the heterogeneity of both workers (in terms of formal training, skills and experience) and jobs', Varshavskaya explains. Studies also suggests that qualification mismatch, in addition to factors such as training and skills, can be associated with individual characteristics such as gender and age.
According to international research, an overqualified employee is less committed to their current employer and more likely to search for a new job. 'This confirms the validity of the job matching theory which explains job mobility as an adaptation strategy aimed at finding a better match between worker characteristics and workplace requirements', Varshavskaya notes. In addition to this, empirical studies suggest that overqualification has a negative impact on job satisfaction.
Noting that qualification mismatch is still a peripheral topic for Russian researchers, Varshavskaya presents her study as virtually the first attempt to describe this phenomenon in the country's labour market.
The study used data from the Comprehensive Living Conditions Survey conducted by Rosstat as part of the Federal statistical observations. Since 2014, the survey has been conducted biennially, covering up to 60,000 households in all Russian regions. Varshavakaya's study used data from the 2018 survey; her sample size was 50,000 currently employed people.
There are two groups of methods for measuring qualification mismatch: objective (using tools such as tests) and subjective (using employee self-assessment of the match between their skills and current job). According to Varshavskaya, most researchers tend to use subjective methods which involve less effort and cost, while the use of objective methods is further complicated by the lack of tools for direct measurement of qualifications. In addition to this, it has been found that a subjective assessment of skill mismatch is a better predictor of employee behaviour than objective measurements.
The study discussed here used a subjective approach based on the following question in the CLCS: 'Do you believe that you have the skills or qualifications for performing more sophisticated work than you currently have?' with response options 'yes', 'no' and 'not sure'. Those who answered 'yes' were considered overqualified.
To measure the impact of overqualification on potential employee turnover and job satisfaction, the respondents were asked whether they were searching for a more suitable new job and how satisfied they were with the following aspects of their current job:
The results were processed using statistical analysis methods.
Based on the CLCS data, some 58% of employees were overqualified in 2011 and 2014, 54% in 2016, and 52% in 2018. 'The proportion of overqualified workforce has remained stable in the 2010s, with just a slight downward trend', Varshavskaya concludes.
The qualification gap varies by socio-demographic group. Men are more likely than women to self-report being overqualified (53.2% versus 51.6%). A subjectively perceived qualification gap tends to decrease with age after 40, and to increase with education: 61.8% of employees with higher education – twice as many as those with only general school education – report having skills or qualifications for a more sophisticated job than their current one.
As for professional groups, managers (58.5%) and employees tasked with handling information and paperwork (57.7%) were more likely than others to self-assess their qualifications as excessive for the job. Skilled industrial workers (49.5%), unskilled workers (49.3%) and machine operators (44.7%) were less likely to think of themselves as overqualified. Varshavskaya sums it up: those with higher levels of education and those working in high-skilled jobs are more likely to perceive themselves as overqualified.
An econometric assessment of factors affecting self-perception of overqualification reveals that the level of education appears to be the most important variable, while the impacts of gender and age are relatively small. The chances of self-reported overqualification increase dramatically for respondents with vocational education and training, especially at tertiary level.
Other contributing factors include being employed in the informal sector and working in conditions perceived as poor or just satisfactory, as well as excessive education for one's position and working in a different job than one was trained for.
Adding the variable 'professional position category' had little effect on the coefficients, indicating, according to Varshavskaya, robustness of results. An additional analysis found the highest overqualification risks among managers, highly skilled specialists, office staff and service workers, while skilled agricultural and industrial workers had the lowest risks of subjective overqualification.
'These results are consistent with those found in international studies showing that education and job characteristics are the most relevant factors for subjective perception of overqualification', according to Varshavskaya.
As for the implications of overqualification, 16% of respondents who consider themselves overqualified are in search of a new job versus 8.8% of those who believe that their qualifications match their current position.
In addition to this, overqualification has a negative impact on all aspects of job satisfaction. Employees who feel overqualified are 25% to 30% more likely to be generally dissatisfied with their job responsibilities and to experience no moral satisfaction with their work, while their chances of being dissatisfied professionally increase even more by 40% to 50%.
This is the first study of this type in Russia. Its main findings confirm those of foreign studies indicating that overqualification is a significant factor in employee behaviour and job satisfaction. According to Varshavskaya, many questions remain unanswered and require further study using an interdisciplinary approach, because perceived overqualification is a social and psychological, as well as economic, phenomenon. She argues that comprehensive, in-depth study into this field will have practical as well as theoretical value by suggesting approaches for narrowing down the qualification gap and avoiding the consequent negative implications.