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20th Jan 2022

One in three Europeans more educated than parents, research finds

  • 'The economic crisis hit young, low-educated adults hardest' Gurria said (Photo: Lawrence OP)

One in every three young Europeans has a higher level of education than their parents, according to new research.

However, the number of young people with lower educational attainment than their parents has increased, with researchers finding increasing correlation between the success of children and that of their parents.

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  • One in every three Europeans has enjoyed a higher level of education than their parents, an OECD report has found. (Photo: Kaisa Pankakoski)

The findings are contained in the OECD's "Education at a glance" report published on Tuesday (9 September) by the Paris-based think tank.

The report analyses the education systems of the 34 OECD member countries, 20 of which are members of the EU, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.

The data suggests that access to education continued to expand despite the economic crisis, although the 38 percent of 30 to 34-year old Europeans with degrees is still lower than the OECD's 40 percent average and the 45 percent score in the United States.

"The crisis did not slow this process of expansion," the OECD's secretary general Angel Gurria said in a statement.

"On the contrary, when labour markets didn't provide much of an alternative, many individuals used the low opportunity costs to invest in their education with the aim of improving their chances for a better life."

But the research also reflects the record levels of unemployment and weakening social mobility rates across much of Europe.

The proportion of 15-29 year olds who were not in work, education or training stood at 15 percent in 2012, up from around 12 percent at the start of the crisis in 2008.

Unsurprisingly, the research indicates that graduates are far more likely to avoid the EU's record unemployment lines. Europeans with a degree are 50 percent more likely to be employed than those without.

Even so, 20 percent of adults who continued their studies until 18 and beyond were inactive, 8 percent of which were unemployed.

The data also reveals that, despite the economic crisis, only three EU countries reduced their public spending on education between 2008 and 2011. Only Estonia, Hungary and Italy cut spending compared to an average increase of 4 percent across the bloc.

"Our data reconfirm that the economic crisis hit young, low-educated adults hardest," said Gurria.

OECD education spokesman Andreas Schleicher said that policy makers should be concerned about the "growing disparities in earnings and employment' for the education 'haves' and have nots'."

"The most worrying part is that it is the young people, the most recent graduates that are seeing the lowest mobility in their life-chances".

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