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Graduates defy 'lazy generation y' myth by increasing their workloads

Graduates are being forced to work longer hours, as they strive to get ahead in a tough labour market, according to Graduate Prospects.

The annual Real Prospects 1 study asked 22,000 employed and self-employed graduates about their experiences of the world of work across all sectors.

It explores how employers manage the transition between education and employment, and asks graduates what more universities could do to help students prepare for work, how they feel about their job and what career development support employers should offer.

The research found that one in seven graduates is working more than 50 hours a week and this rises to 18% for those in London. Almost half (45%) of graduates feel under pressure to work more than their contracted hours - either to keep on top of their work (87%), to prove themselves as a committed employee (67%) or because it's the norm in their organisation (57%).

The top three most pressurised working environments are legal services (71%), accountancy (64%) and PR/marketing/advertising (53%). The survey also reports a drop in graduate confidence in their job security with 60% feeling secure in their job in 2011, compared with 79% in 2009.

Mike Hill, chief executive at Graduate Prospects, said: "Gen Y has been regarded as the 'lazy' generation, favouring life over work, but the research points to quite the opposite with many graduates developing as strong a work ethic as previous generations.

"This is undoubtedly a sign of the times. The labour market remains uncertain and the full impact of the public sector cuts is yet to be seen. Graduates are working hard to ensure they remain in employment and get ahead."

The study also examines attitudes to pay and benefits. Only half (53%) of graduates are satisfied with what they earn, with 77% receiving less than £30,000 (majority earns £20,000-£25,000).

Almost a third (30%) feels that their pay and benefits package compares less favourably to their contemporaries in similar roles. Salaries vary greatly between job roles and sector, but according to the data, graduate solicitors are the biggest earners, receiving £35,000-40,000, followed by scientists, engineers and software engineers - the majority of which earn £25,000-£30,000.

Hill added: "Graduate expectations of what working life will be like and what salary they're likely to get can be quite different from the reality, which explains why a significant minority suffer from 'grass is greener' syndrome.

"It was recently reported that a sixth of this year's university leavers expect to earn £100,000 or more by the age of 30. Our research shows the reality of today's graduate jobs market - a quarter of graduates earn more than £30,000 up to ten years after completing university and only 7% receive in excess of £40,000. When you consider that the median gross annual earnings for full-time employees last year were £25,900, graduates are faring well despite the economic climate.

"Graduates looking for their first job need to know the reality of the market and how it operates. This is what Real Prospects does - by working with employers, universities and graduates we can show how previous generations have succeeded in negotiating the graduate labour market."