· News

ONS proves graduates and men earn more

Degree-holders earned an average of £12,000 a year more than non-graduates over the past decade, analysis from the Office for National Statistics shows.

After adjusting to allow for increases in earnings over the period, the data shows graduates aged 22 to 64 had median salaries of £30,000 compared with £18,000 for non-degree holders. Looking at how earnings differed between age, earnings were similar for those aged 22 - around £15,000, regardless of whether they had a degree or not.

For those without a degree, earnings initially increased for each year of age but levelled off around the age of 30 and peaked at the age of 34, where it stood at £19,400. For those with a degree, earnings increased faster for each year of age. They also increased for longer, levelling off around the age of 35 and peaking at age 51 at £34,500. ONS statistician Jamie Jenkins said: "This analysis shows there is a big difference between average earnings for graduates and non-graduates. We also see a big difference between them by age, with graduates' earnings not peaking until they are in their early 50s.

After this age, average wages decreased, as the higher earners leave the labour market earlier." When comparing men's and women's earnings, it is better to use hourly earnings, because of differences in the number of hours worked between the sexes. Earnings for women, for both those with and those without a degree, levelled off at a younger age than for men with the same level of qualification. Over the past decade, a male graduate could expect to earn on average 20% more than a female graduate - however the gap was marginally wider for non-degree holders, at 23%. In 2010, approximately one in three female graduates had a degree in either health-related studies or education, compared with only one in 11 male graduates, while almost one in two male graduates had degrees in business and finance, sciences or engineering, compared with only one in five female graduates.

Average earnings for those with a degree in the predominantly male banking and finance industry were £37,300, compared with £27,600 in the predominantly female public administration, education and health sector. Jenkins added: "There are differences in the types of degree that men and women study and these often lead to jobs in different parts of the economy. A higher percentage of men than women have degrees leading to banking and finance, while more women have degrees leading to education and health jobs. The differences in earnings between these industries can partially explain why on average men earn more than women."

The data come from the Labour Force Survey over the past decade, adjusted for the earlier years to 2010 levels using the Average Weekly Earnings series.