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Education Indicators in Focus

Education Indicators in Focus is a recurring series of briefs that highlight specific indicators in OECD’s Education at a Glance that are of particular interest to policy makers and practitioners. They provide a detailed look into current issues in pre-primary, primary and secondary education, higher education, and adult outcomes from a global perspective, and contain an engaging mix of text, tables and charts that describe the international context of the most pressing questions in education policy and practice.

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What Are the Earnings Advantages from Education?

  • Rising levels of tertiary attainment seem not to have led to an “inflation” eroding the labour-market value of qualifications. However, tertiary graduates have the highest relative earnings advantage when they live in a country with low tertiary attainment rates.
  • On average, compared to those with an upper secondary education, tertiary-educated adults earn about 1.6 times more than their peers, while individuals without an upper secondary education earn 24% less.
  • Higher educational attainment and literacy skills increase earnings, but the advantages are more pronounced for men than for women and seem to increase as adults get older.
  • The crisis has widened the wage gap between less educated and highly educated individuals: across OECD countries, the average difference in earnings from employment between these two groups increased from 75 percentage points in 2008 to 79 percentage points in 2012.
  • Qualifications are more rewarded than skills: attaining a higher level of education has a stronger positive impact on earnings than better literacy proficiency.

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