Want to work? Stay in college!

It can’t be more straightforward: the more educated you are, the more likely you are to have a job. In every OECD country, without a single exception, a higher proportion of 25 to 64–year-olds with a tertiary level of education are employed than those with only an upper secondary degree. And likewise, those with an upper secondary qualification are generally far more likely to have a job than those with a level of education below that.

data (xls)

Across the OECD, some 85% of 25 to 64-year-olds with a tertiary education have a job, compared to an average of 59% of those with a secondary education or less. And the gap grows considerably wider for some countries (see our chart). With notable exceptions of Iceland and Korea, very few countries have managed to shrink this gap down.

It works for gender as well. Higher levels of education also bring the employment rates of women up to that of men. Men are generally more likely to be employed than women, but the discrepancy is much bigger among people with low levels of education.

Given the importance of employment and skills for the recovery, these numbers strengthen the case for maintaining, if not increasing, investment in education at a time when public spending is under pressure. Investing in university education in particular will pay off by bringing in additional tax revenues later on as employment and productivity increases: the total public cost of getting a tertiary degree is of $33,000 per student but the total benefits amount to $86,000, on average in OECD countries.

Further reading:


23 comments to “Want to work? Stay in college!”

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  1. Laurence Shatkin - 22/09/2010 Reply

    The graph used on this page is needlessly confusing. It should show orange and green bars side by side. Instead, it mistakenly gives the impression that it is a stacked-bar (or segmented-bar) chart in which the total height of the bar indicates the total contribution of the two segments.

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