OECD data: University degrees are crisis-proof

Nieuws | de redactie
31 januari 2012 | Unemployment among non-university degree holders rose more than twice as fast compared to academic graduates. OECD data shows that higher education might serve as an insurance policy in times of economic crisis. “With the [uncertain] economic outlook for 2012, that’s no small comfort.”

In “Education Indicators in Focus”, OECD senior analyst J. D.Larock asks whether: “with all the economic turmoil ofthe past several years, have you ever wished you could buy aninsurance policy to protect against the effects of a globalrecession? Well, such an insurance policy already exists – and it’scalled higher education.”

Less educated, faster unemployed

“In country after country, people with a tertiary (higher)education were much less likely to be unemployed, much more likelyto be participating in the labour force, and more likely to havehigher earnings, compared to their less-educated counterparts.”

“As the crisis ramped up in 2008 and continued in 2009,unemployment rates increased across the board in OECD countries.However, the impact was much greater for adults without an uppersecondary education. Among this group, unemployment rates rose froman already high 8.7% to 11.5%, and jumped five percentage points ormore in Estonia, Ireland, Spain and the United States.

“Adults with an upper secondary or equivalent level of educationfared somewhat better: among this group, unemployment rates rosefrom 4.9% to 6.8% between 2008 and 2009 across the OECD zone.However, in Estonia, Ireland, Spain and Turkey, jobless ratesreached 10% or more for this group of people – a mark generallyregarded as troublingly high territory for unemployment.”

University graduate unemployment rose by1,1%

“By contrast, people with a tertiary education were the bestprotected against unemployment during the thick of the globalrecession. Overall, unemployment rates in OECD countries ticked upjust 1.1 percentage points for this group between 2008 and 2009,from 3.3% to 4.4%. Moreover, 2009 unemployment rates remained at 5%or less for tertiary-educated people in 24 out of 34 OECDcountries, and surpassed 8% in only two – Spain and Turkey.”

“Employment figures tell a similar story: during the crisis yearof 2009, people with higher education not only had less troublefinding a job, but also had an easier time keeping the job theyhad. Across all OECD countries, 83.6% of adults with a tertiaryeducation were employed in 2009, compared to 74.2% of adults withan upper secondary or equivalent education, and just 56.0% ofadults without an upper secondary education.”

“While a number of factors contribute to the level of adults’participation in the labour force, higher employment rates forpeople with more education point to a better match between theskills these individuals possess and the skills the labour marketdemands, even during periods of economic crisis.

Graduates continue receiving greaterincomes

“What’s more, the sizeable earnings premium thatuniversity-educated people typically enjoy in the labour marketheld strong during the crisis years of 2008 and 2009. In 2008,among 14 OECD countries with comparable data, the typical employeewith higher education earned 56% more than the typical employeewith an upper secondary or equivalent education.

“Even in the face of the economic crisis, this premium increasedslightly to 57% in 2009. By contrast, the typical employee withoutan upper secondary education earned 23% less than a correspondingworker with an upper secondary education in 2008 – and thisearnings penalty remained the same in 2009.”

“Having a higher education isn’t fail-safe protection from theconsequences of a global economic downturn. But like any goodinsurance policy, it can help people recover when bad things happento them. And with the economic outlook for 2012 looking asuncertain as it does, that’s no small comfort.”

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