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Education at a Glance 2019 – TUAC assessment

11 September 2019

The OECD released its Education at a Glance (EAG) report on September 10 including a wealth of data on educational outcomes and, this time, a specific focus on tertiary education (English: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2019_f8d7880d-en; French: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/fr/education/regards-sur-l-education-2019_6bcf6dc9-fr). This publication typically is not making policy recommendations but highlights trends in the education system and the effects on the employability of individuals (mostly younger cohorts). The value of the EAG is that it is an easily accessible source for country comparisons on aspects of educational provision.

Main Take-aways

  • 25-34 year-olds with tertiary education earn 38% more than their peers with upper secondary education while 45-54 year-olds earn 70% more; Meanwhile, VET numbers remain low “on average across OECD countries, in 2017, 18% of 15-24 year-olds”.
  • EAG misses out to discuss the policy mix needed to decrease inequalities both for children and young adults, and their parents including through labour market instutions and social dialogue;
  • Regional inequalities in educational attainment have narrowed in recent years, mainly due to improvements in the regions that had the lowest educational attainment levels;
  • There is still a low take up of Engineering, manufacturing, construction (EMC) and information technology (ICT) studies despite being promising career paths: “only 14% of graduates earned a degree in EMC and only 4% in ICT. Within all these fields, less than 25% are women”;
  • The share of tertiary-educated young adults (aged 25-34) increased from 35% in 2008 to 44% in 2018”  – also with proportionally higher levels of women – the scarring effect of longer unemployment spells decreases with a higher educational attainment level;
  • Participation in non-formal education and training is much higher than participation in formal education and training.  The OECD ascribes a limited role to social partners and flags PPPs as an avenue to provide adult learning.

Regrettably, apart from minor references to trade unions and collective bargaining, there is no further discussion on their role in the provision of training or in correcting labour market outcomes. The only reference reads:

“A number of factors other than education also play a role in individuals’ earnings, including the demand for skills in the labour market, the supply of workers and their skills, the minimum wage and other labour-market laws, and structures and practices (such as the strength of labour unions, the coverage of collective-bargaining agreements and the quality of working environments). These factors also contribute to differences in the distribution of earnings.” (p.83)

While there is nothing wrong with it, the EAG does not go beyond it – and that in light of revised OECD Jobs and Skills Strategies that both underline the importance of social dialogue and social partner involvement. The same applies to adult learning above the age of 35 (although informal learning is briefly discussed). Given current and potential labour market challenges ahead and persistent learning and skills gaps, such analysis in the next volume would be warranted.

Download the PDF for the full TUAC assessment and the relevant results from the publication pertinent to trade union work on skills, training and workforce employability.