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Overqualification: permanent or transitory?

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2012
Author Frei Christa, Sousa Poza Alfonso,
Project SWISS HOUSEHOLD PANEL - 2012 - 2013
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Applied Economics
Volume (Issue) 44(14)
Page(s) 1837 - 1847
Title of proceedings Applied Economics


This article analyses job mismatches in Switzerland based on a subjective measure of overqualification. According to job search and job matching theories, overqualification is a transitory problem. Other theories show that overqualification can also be of a permanent nature. We test the perpetuity of overeducation using panel data from the first eight waves of the Swiss Household Panel (SHP) covering the period 1999 to 2006. Our empirical analysis reveals little evidence for lasting rigidities that would cause permanent job mismatches. Rather, spells of overqualification are relatively short: about half of all individuals who were overqualified in a given year had an adequate job match 1 year later. While a short duration of overqualification would be consistent with job search and job matching theories, our observation that the probability of a job mismatch does not significantly decrease with experience is at odds with these theories. Our article provides an alternative explanation for this phenomenon: the constant accumulation of experience and qualifications throughout a worker's career implies that, for a good job match to be maintained, qualification-specific job requirements must increase as the worker ages. If this does not occur, even older workers face a risk of becoming overqualified.