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Education and youth employment: Updates from OECD and European Council

The new Education at a Glance report was released in June. Traditionally, this annual report provides a wealth of comprehensive data and analyses on the performance of OECD and several partner countries at all levels of education. OECD’s new international student mobility data bring no major surprise. Specifically, OECD reports on a continuous increase in the number of students enrolled outside their country of citizenship. While Asian students, particularly from China, India and Korea, account for more than half of all foreign students enrolled worldwide, the vast majority of them (83%) are enrolled in G20 countries. Remarkably, a big share of foreign students from G20 countries that are not members of the OECD are either better-performing students and/or those from relatively advantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Importantly, the newest OECD report explores the links between education and the labour market, having introduced a set of new indicators connecting education, employment, skills and earnings.  While alarm bells are ringing for Europe’s youth unemployment, the 2013 Education at a Glance report reveals that education is the best protection against unemployment:
  • Educational attainment strongly affects employability and income during the times of crisis. The unemployment rate for low-educated people grows more than two times faster than for highly educated individuals, whereas youth neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) is the most vulnerable group.  The OECD average wage gap between low-educated and highly educated individuals increased from 75% in 2008 to 90% in 2011.  Young people therefore try to invest more in education in order to equip themselves with more competitive skills before approaching the labour market.
  • Youth unemployment dynamics are very different across OECD, ranging between a +21.5% increase in unemployment among low-skilled 25-34 years-olds in Ireland to -3.6% in Chile.  Countries that have a higher-than-average (32%) share of graduates from vocational education programmes (e.g. Austria and Germany) are more successful in keeping youth unemployment lower.
Youth unemployment tops the EU political agenda. The European Council meeting end of June decided to mobilise available instruments in support of youth employment and agreed on a comprehensive approach based on the following concrete measures:
  • Reprogramming of unspent funds of the Structural Funds for the creation of new jobs for young workers;
  • The launch of the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) in January 2014 and the implementation of the “Youth Guarantee” scheme and other relevant actions;
  • Promoting the mobility of young job-seekers, e.g. by strengthening the “Your First EURES Job” programme, the recognition of professional qualifications and the preservation of supplementary pension rights;
  • Promoting high quality apprenticeships and work-based learning, notably through such upcoming mechanisms as the European Alliance for Apprenticeships and the Quality Framework for Traineeships.