Education at a Glance 2016
Hide / Show Abstract

Education at a Glance 2016

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. It provides key information on the output of educational institutions; the impact of learning across countries; the financial and human resources invested in education; access, participation and progression in education; and the learning environment and organisation of schools.

The 2016 edition introduces a new indicator on the completion rate of tertiary students and another one on school leaders. It provides more trend data and analysis on diverse topics, such as: teachers’ salaries; graduation rates; expenditure on education; enrolment rates; young adults who are neither employed nor in education or training; class size; and teaching hours. The publication examines gender imbalance in education and the profile of students who attend, and graduate from, vocational education.

The report covers all 35 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa).

This edition includes more than 125 figures and 145 tables. The Excel™ spreadsheets used to create them are available via the StatLinks provided throughout the publication. More data is available in the OECD Education Statistics database.

Click to Access:
  • PDF
  • READ

Indicator A6 What are the Earnings Advantages from Education? You do not have access to this content

Click to Access:
  • PDF
  • READ

Hide / Show Abstract

Indicator A6 examines earnings advantages by level of educational attainment, including a breakdown by tertiary level. It compares relative earnings of men and women and distribution of earnings by level of educational attainment.. It also shows differences in earnings between female and male workers and by field of education studied at the tertiary level.

Also available in French

Chapter Highlights

  • In all OECD countries, earnings differentials between adults with tertiary education and those with upper secondary education are generally more pronounced than the difference between the earnings of those with upper secondary education and those with below upper secondary education. This suggests large earnings advantages for tertiary education.

  • On average, adults with a master’s, doctoral or equivalent degree earn almost twice as those with upper secondary education across OECD countries, and those with a bachelor’s or equivalent degree earn 48% more, while those with a short-cycle tertiary degree earn only about 20% more.

  • Across all levels of educational attainment, the gender gap in earnings persists, and although women generally have higher educational attainment, a large gender gap in earnings is seen between male and female full-time workers with tertiary education. Across OECD countries, tertiary-educated women earn only 73% as much as tertiary-educated men. This gender gap of 27% in earnings for tertiary-educated adults is higher than the gender gap for adults with below upper secondary (24%) and adults with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education (22%).

Figure A6.1. Relative earnings of adults working full time, by educational attainment (2014)
25-64 year-olds with income from employment; upper secondary education = 100

Note: Tertiary education includes short-cycle tertiary, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral or equivalent degrees.

1. Year of reference differs from 2014. Refer to Table A6.1 for details.

2. Some levels of education are included with others. Refer to x code in Table A6.1 for details.

3. Index 100 refers to the combined ISCED levels 3 and 4 of the educational attainment levels in the ISCED 2011 or ISCED-97 classification.

4. Earnings net of income tax.

5. Data for upper secondary attainment include completion of a sufficient volume and standard of programmes that would be classified individually as completion of intermediate upper secondary programmes (18% of the adults are under this group).

6. Data refer to all earners.

Countries are ranked in ascending order of the relative earnings of 25-64 year-olds with tertiary education.

Source: OECD. Table A6.1. See Annex 3 for notes (

ContextExpand / Collapse

Higher levels of education usually translate into better chances of employment (see Indicator A5) and higher earnings. While people with higher qualification are generally better placed to see increases in their earnings over time, the lower-educated, who usually have lower earnings at the start of their career, tend to see a decrease in their earnings with age. Hence, the potential for higher earnings and faster earning progression can be one of the important incentives for individuals to pursue education and training (see Indicator A7), and this may also be one of the decisive factors when they choose their field of education.

In addition to education, a number of other factors play a role in individuals’ earnings. In many countries, earnings are systematically lower for women than men across all levels of educational attainment. This may be related to the gender differences in the sectors where they work and the types of occupation (OECD, 2016b). Variations in earnings also reflect factors, including the demand for skills in the labour market, the supply of workers and their skills, the minimum wage and other labour market laws, 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. In some countries, earnings are tightly centred around a narrower range, while in others there are large earning disparities, leading to widening inequalities.

Other findingsExpand / Collapse

  • Cross-country variations in relative earnings for adults without upper secondary qualifications are small compared to the considerable differences for those with tertiary education. Among OECD and partner countries, the relative earnings for tertiary education are largest in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Hungary and Mexico where adults with tertiary education earn on average more than twice as much as adults with upper secondary education for full-time work, while Denmark, Norway and Sweden have the smallest relative earnings, only about 25% higher.

  • On average across OECD countries, 44% of adults with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education earns more than median earnings, and 70% of the tertiary-educated earn more than the median. Among OECD and partner countries, the share of the tertiary-educated with earnings more than twice the median is highest (over 50%) in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

  • Across the OECD countries and subnational entities that participated in the Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), the fields of education associated with higher earnings are engineering, manufacturing and construction; social sciences, business and law; and science, mathematics and computing. On average, workers who studied in these fields at the tertiary level earn about 10% more than the average of tertiary-educated earners for full-time work. But the average earnings of those who graduated in teacher training and education science, or humanities, language and arts are about 15% lower than the average earnings.

NoteExpand / Collapse

Data are analysed with different specifications for this indicator. Relative earnings by educational attainment compare the earnings of adults with income who have an educational attainment other than upper secondary with a benchmark earning of those with upper secondary education (upper secondary education only, not combined with post-secondary non-tertiary education).

Earnings by field of education refer to monthly earnings for the tertiary-educated with a specific field of education and are analysed relative to the mean monthly earnings of the tertiary-educated across all fields of education. These data are taken from the Survey of Adult Skills. This survey was not specifically designed to analyse the tertiary-educated population, so the sample size for specific fields of education can be small and should therefore be interpreted with caution.

Most of the analyses use full-time full-year earnings, but relative earnings referring to the total population for specific educational attainment are also analysed by taking into account part-time earners and people with no income from employment. For distribution of earnings, data include part-time workers and do not control for hours worked, although they are likely to influence earnings in general and the distribution in particular (see the Methodology section at the end of this indicator for further information). Any other incomes not directly related to work, such as government social transfers or investment income, are not included as part of earnings.

Visit the OECD web site