How higher education may be easing the global recession

A new OECD report on education in the world's top economies highlights the importance of higher education, which includes vocational schooling, during an economic downturn.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development recently released its Education at a Glance 2012 report, which examines education in OECD and G20 countries (where the data was available). Here are the five most educated countries in the world.

The key to understanding this year’s report is the 2009 - 2010 global recession: “No group or country – no matter how well-educated – is totally immune from the effects of a worldwide economic downturn,” begins the Education at a Glance 2012 report, which notes that young people have borne the largest burden. Nearly 16 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 29 in OECD countries in 2010 were neither employed nor in some kind of education or training program.

The OECD research highlights the importance of higher education, which includes vocational schooling, during an economic downturn. People with more education were found to be able to keep or change jobs more easily; unemployment rates for those with higher education remained low during the economic crisis; and the earning gap between people with higher vs. lower levels of education grew wider during the recession.

Access to higher education is not equitable for all students, however, and creating opportunities for everyone is a challenge that all countries face, notes the report. For example, young people with at least one parent who has completed a higher education degree in OECD countries have nearly double the chances of attaining higher education opportunities, the report notes.

Another barrier is that students and families have taken on an increasingly large portion of education costs in OECD countries, which the report notes can lead to situations where individuals are burdened with debt that could prevent them from pursuing further education. “These barriers may impede countries’ own goals of increasing educational attainment in their populations,” the report notes.


OECD countries:
Australia; Austria; Belgium; Canada; Chile; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iceland; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Korea; Luxembourg; Mexico; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Slovak Republic; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States

Non-OECD G20 major economies:
Argentina; Brazil; China; India; Indonesia; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; South Africa

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