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Workforce status, income and caring responsibilities among graduates of STEM and other fields

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data follows a cohort of 161,000 people who graduated with a university qualification in 2011. Data shows income, workforce outcomes and caring responsibilities for the cohort to 2016.

Graduate workforce status and child care provision

Compare the circumstances for 2011 graduates in 2016, their workforce status and whether they provided unpaid care to their own or other children.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 (unpublished)

Data insights

Workforce status

In 2016, employed STEM-qualified women were twice as likely to work part time as STEM-qualified men (26% of women, 13% of men). For women, this was the same proportion as women with non‑STEM qualifications. Rates of working part time were similar for men with STEM (13%) and non-STEM qualifications (14%), with those with health qualifications slightly higher (18%).

For those with a STEM qualification not working in 2016, 12.9% of women reported they were not in the labour force and 3.6% were unemployed. This compares with 8.6% of men not in the labour force and 4.2% unemployed.

Child care

Of the cohort of all employed STEM-qualified women (full time and part time) in 2016, 17% reported that they provided unpaid child care to their own or other children, compared to 19% men. This was less than employed women with health (33%) and non-STEM (27%) qualifications.

Of the cohort of unemployed women with STEM qualifications in 2016, 28% reported that they provided unpaid child care to their own or other children in 2016, compared to 10% of unemployed men. This was substantially less than unemployed women with health (55%) and non-STEM qualifications (48%).

Of those who completed a STEM qualification in 2011 and worked in a STEM-qualified occupation in 2016, a greater proportion of men (20%) than women (18%) reported that they provided unpaid care to their own or other children. This was also the case for non-STEM-qualified men (31%) who worked in a STEM-qualified occupation, compared to women (28%). Both women and men STEM graduates were also less likely than non-STEM or health graduates to partake in unpaid care of their own or other children in 2016.

The workforce outcomes and caring responsibilities for the 2011 graduates provide context for the gender income gap. Women being more likely to work part time or take periods of unpaid parental leave than men may, at least in part, affect the gender pay gap.

Graduate income

Compare the income of 2011 STEM graduates from 2010–11 to 2015–16. Note this visual is not interactive.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 (unpublished)

Data insights

In 2012–13, approximately 2 years after graduating with their STEM qualification, 70% of the women employed in that year earned less than $50,000 annually. Only 10% earned $75,000 or more. By comparison, 50% of employed STEM-qualified men earned less than $50,000, and 21% earned $75,000 or more.

By 2015–16, the proportion of employed men who earned $75,000 or more (38%) was 1.9 times higher than the proportion of women with that income (20%). This increased further with men 2.6 times more likely to have earned $100,000 or more than women (17% and 7% respectively).

Notably, women were more than 3 years behind men in reaching earnings of $50,000 a year, with 50% of men earning over this threshold in 2012–13, compared to only 45% of women in 2015–16.

About the data

Our department commissioned the Australian Bureau of Statistics to undertake this longitudinal study.

The ABS examined the occupational outcomes of the 2011 cohort of university graduates for the following 5 years through to 2016. To do this, the ABS analysed the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) Modular Product (2011–2016) which is a linked dataset providing anonymised and aggregated analysis of the following:

  • 2011 higher education data
  • 2016 Census of Population and Housing data
  • 2010–11 to 2015–16 personal income tax data

This allowed the ABS to determine income, occupation and industry details through the years from 2011 until 2016. For each chosen variable of analysis, the outcomes have been explored using one of these datasets. Linkage of datasets is based on the data quality for the particular variable and highest level of linked records with the 2011 higher education data. This may have resulted in differences in total numbers and proportions reported. 

We have grouped the qualifications and occupations broadly into STEM, non-STEM and health, and used granular details for analysis where possible. All definitions of education and occupation are consistent with our methodology.

This analysis covers the initial 5 years of graduates’ careers. We will publish further analysis following the 2021 and 2026 Censuses to understand how the cohort of 2011 graduates’ careers progress.

Read about the ABS’ Multi-Agency Data Integration Project

Read more about our methodology and this data