Horizontal mismatch

Horizontal mismatch, also known as field of education mismatch, occurs when there is a discrepancy between a person’s current occupation and their field of education based on the highest level of education that they attained (International Labour Office, 2018; Kriechel & Vetter, 2019). 

Literature suggests that the measurement of field of study should be limited to persons in employment with at least higher secondary education since those with lower levels of education do not have any specialisation (International Labour Office, 2018). Thus, for this article, horizontal mismatch was computed for persons with a post-secondary level of education (ISCED 4) or higher.

Figures from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) showed that, in 2021, more than half of the employed population with an ISCED 4 qualification or higher in Malta were working in the same educational field (52.4 per cent). This implied that the remaining 47.6 per cent were employed in a different field to what they studied (horizontal mismatch).

Chart 1. Horizontal mismatch in Malta

Horizontal mismatch by sex, age and level of education

The overall mismatch for males and females was equal (47.7 and 47.6 per cent respectively). However, the largest discrepancy between males and females was evident in the 55 years and over age group. Results indicated that males were more likely to work in a field which corresponded to the one they studied (51.4 per cent).

Chart 2. Horizontal mismatch by sex and age group

Discrepancies were also evident by level of education. Field of education mismatch was prevalent among persons with a tertiary level of education (48.1 per cent).

Chart 3. Horizontal mismatch by highest level of education

Horizontal mismatch by employment characteristics

Field of education mismatch tended to be more common in certain occupation groups and economic activities.

In 2021, more than half of workers in the other services sector (63.5 per cent) and wholesale and retail trade, transportation and storage, accommodation, and food service activities (51.2 per cent) were not working in the same field that they studied. Meanwhile, most of those employed in construction (66.9 per cent) and financial and insurance activities (61.7 per cent) were working in the same field they studied (Table 13, Chart 11).

Chart 4. Horizontal mismatch by economic activity in main job

From an occupation perspective, in 2021, the majority of persons who worked as service and sales workers (66.9 per cent) and managers (57.6 per cent) experienced field of education mismatch. On the other hand, most craft and related trades workers (70.8 per cent) and professionals (60.7 per cent) worked in the same field they studied.

Chart 5. Horizontal mismatch by occupation in main job


Eurostat. (2021). Skills mismatch experimental indicators: Methodological note. Luxembourg: Eurostat. Retrieved 2022, from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/experimental-statistics/skills

International Labour Office. (2018). Measurement of qualifications and skills mismatches of persons in employment. Geneva: International Labour Office.

Kriechel , B., & Vetter, T. (2019). Skills mismatch measurement in ETF partner countries. Turin, Italy: European Training Foundation. doi:10.2816/664496

Skip to content