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EU investment for education and youth employability pays off, OECD report confirms

Commission Européenne - IP/13/603   25/06/2013

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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 25 June 2013

EU investment for education and youth employability pays off, OECD report confirms

The European Commission today welcomed the launch of Education at a Glance 2013, an annual report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which analyses the education systems of the 34 OECD member countries, including 21 EU Member States, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. The report identifies challenges for European education systems that must be tackled by the EU and its Member States working together, and confirms the importance of policies aimed at modernising education systems and increasing opportunities for young people to study or train abroad.

"This report is a major source of knowledge and evidence for policy-makers, helping to deepen our understanding of the challenges we face. Investing in education always pays off in the long run and Member States cannot afford to forget this when it comes to allocating public budgets. As the report confirms, cutting back on education spending in general, and on teachers' salaries in particular, can hinder our objective of providing efficient and high quality education systems," said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

"What we need now is ensure our young people are motivated and equipped with 21st century skills, with the entrepreneurial spirit to bring Europe back onto the path of growth. We must be ready to implement reforms so that our education systems are a match for the world's best – and that means we have to invest. However, as this report clearly shows, some Member States are doing better than others in maintaining levels of spending on education."

Investment in quality education and training, particularly in the current context of high youth unemployment, is at the heart of the EU policy agenda. The next European Council on 27-28 June will focus on measures to boost youth employment. As part of its contribution to next week's meeting, the Commission has launched a new initiative, 'Working together for Europe's young people'. This sets out actions that have or will be taken by the EU to help Member States to modernise and improve their education systems – an approach that is in tune with the findings of Education at a Glance 2013.

Education at a Glance 2013 is presented in Brussels today by Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education and Skills at the OECD; Xavier Prats Monné, Deputy Director General of the European Commission's Directorate General for Education and Culture, will comment on the relevance of the findings of the report for the EU.

What Education at a Glance 2013 says about Europe:

Education at a Glance is produced annually by the OECD and draws on data compiled by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Union, and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The report features data on education from the 34 OECD countries, including 21 EU Member States. Six EU Member States are not part of the OECD (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Romania) and are therefore not included in the report.

The Commission welcomes the report in the context of strengthened cooperation between the Education Department of the OECD and the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the Commission in the analysis of education systems. The report confirms the Commission's own analysis of trends that characterise European education systems, while at the same time reflecting the very diverse situations which exist between Member States.

Expenditure on education per student is on a downward trend in most EU countries, although it is still slightly above the OECD average. In 2010, expenditure per student across all levels of education in the 21 EU members of the OECD was €7 200 compared with €6 900 in the OECD as a whole. This is a cause for concern; moreover, the EU's own data on government expenditure in education as a percentage of GDP show that five EU countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania and Slovakia) combine both a low level of investment in absolute terms and a decreasing trend in expenditure since 2008/09.

On average, 15% of young people aged 15-29 were neither in employment nor in education and training (NEET) in 2011, slightly better than the overall OECD average of 16%. However, in Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain, more than 20% of young people were in this situation. Recent EU figures show that this worsened in 2012 for the three Southern European countries. Dedicated education and training programmes, including high quality apprenticeships or traineeships within the EU youth guarantee initiative have a major role to play in avoiding a 'lost generation'.

EU countries have a high share of students in vocational programmes at upper secondary education level, significantly higher than the OCED average. However, the picture varies significantly between Member States: In 2011, this ratio was over 70% in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland and the Slovak Republic. But Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and the UK had no more than 40% of students in such programmes; this was also the case for non-EU countries with the exception of Australia. The European Commission is urging Member States to maximise the benefits of work-based learning to ease school-to-work transition for young people. On 2 July, Commissioners Androulla Vassiliou and László Andor will launch the European Alliance for Apprenticeships in Leipzig, to strengthen the quality, supply and image of apprenticeships and vocational education across the EU.

On average, teachers in EU countries earn between 77% and 89% of similarly educated full-time workers; their salaries have decreased by around 4% between 2009 and 2011 in real terms. If this trend continues, it might endanger the recruitment of a new generation of motivated teachers to replace an ageing workforce which will go into retirement in the near future.

Gender distribution in tertiary education in EU countries is improving, although not evenly in all fields. As the report shows, for some time now in Europe there have been more female Bachelors/Masters' graduates than male and their share is increasing (60% of all graduates in the 21 EU members of the OECD in 2011, as compared with 55% in 2000). However, in the key disciplines of mathematics, science and technology their share rose only slightly from 40 to 42% (except in the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia, where it rose by more than 10 percentage points), while in engineering the share is 28% (up from 23%). Employment opportunities remained much better for males and females with a tertiary attainment compared with any other educational level; however the gap in employment rates between male and female tertiary graduates aged 25-64 was as high as 7 percentage points on average for the EU 21 (9 percentage points for the OECD overall).

For more information

Briefing by Andreas Schleicher and Xavier Prats Monné web streamed

The full report Education at a Glance 2013 is available on website

Education at a Glance 2013 indicators: OECD Indicators

European Alliance for Apprenticeships

European Commission: The EU's targets in education and training

The European Commission's "Education and Training Monitor 2012"

Education and Training Benchmark leaflet

Eurydice report on Funding of Education in Europe

Eurydice report Key data on teachers in Europe

Contacts :

Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58) Twitter: @DennisAbbott

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

Annex 1: Annual public expenditure on education per student (2010)

Annex 2: Young people neither in employment nor in education or training (2008 and 2011)


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