In order to quantify this phenomenon, the economic literature relies on qualitative studies that include certain biases linked to the fact that individuals are questioned on the perception of their own skills, but also those expected in the occupation concerned. Quantitative approaches also exist, which conversely consist of observing differences in skill levels by occupation.
In our view, a difference in the level of skills within an occupation is not sufficient to infer that a skills mismatch exists. Since skills-mismatch are the result of a disparity between the supply and demand of labour, the quantifying of skills-mismatch must therefore be based on the mechanisms involved in this disparity and not just a simple measurement of skill levels. We propose to include in our measurement the level of education and field of training, which are key markers of an individual's skill level in the labour market. This makes it possible to identify, among individuals whose skill level differs from others within an occupation, those whose training profile can explain this situation.
We prefer to use the term 'apparent skills mismatch' to refer to the situation of individuals whose skill level is substantially different from others. In our view, an apparent skills mismatch does not necessarily mean that individuals are employed in jobs that do not match their skill level, but rather relates to their performance (i.e. whether they perform their duties well or poorly). Our study is based on basic literacy and numeracy skills data from the OECD's 2012 PIAAC (International Assessment of Adult Competencies) survey, a unique international survey of adult skills.
Among those employed in the occupations observed, 29% of individuals have an apparent skills mismatch within their occupation. This occurs in both skilled and unskilled occupations. The situation in France is similar to that observed for its European neighbours in terms of the structure of the skills mismatch. Nevertheless, by occupation, workers in France have a lower level of basic skills relative to those of other European countries.
Of the 29% of individuals with an apparent skills mismatch in their occupation, 11% of those employed in the occupations observed have an apparent skills mismatch in relation to the proxy for their occupation, but not in relation to their training profile. For these individuals, this apparent skills mismatch may mean they are in jobs that are inappropriate to their skill level, i.e. they may be over/under-skilled. As such, it would be preferable for such individuals to work in an occupation more in line with their skill level or to access more training to correct this apparent skills mismatch. However, this mismatch may also reveal differences in training profile within the occupation.
In the occupations observed, 18% of those employed show a mismatch within their occupation and in relation to their training profile, mainly by being below the proxy for their occupation and training profile. Among these individuals, some are in jobs that are mismatched with respect to their skill levels. For others, the mismatch does not relate to their job, but is more a matter of their performance at work, whether they perform well or poorly. We estimate that about two-thirds of the individuals with an apparent skills mismatch in relation to their occupation and training profile are likely to be over/under-skilled. This approximation is only intended to give an order of magnitude. It would be preferable for these individuals to work in an occupation where the skills required are more in line with their own skill level. While a career change is not always possible, especially for older people, continuing education can play an important role in increasing the skill level of individuals. Furthermore, in occupations with the lowest median skill scores, the apparent skills mismatch for individuals whose skill score is below the proxy for their occupation and training profile has more to do with poor individual performance than with over/under-skilling, and particularly concerns people without qualifications. Continuing education efforts should focus on this group.