Educational outcomes are some of the most influential determinants of current and future well-being. Evidence shows that highly educated individuals are more likely to have better health and higher earnings than the less well educated. From an aggregate perspective, a well-educated workforce is also crucial for raising productivity, ensuring resiliency and adaptability to the changing needs of the labour market but also for making use of innovation. Both the capacity to generate and absorb innovation are affected by the quality of the human capital, which in turn is often enhanced by the education levels of the workforce.

Large educational variations can be observed across regions. In seven OECD countries the difference between the region with the highest value and that with the lowest value in the share of the workforce with at least upper secondary education is higher than 20 percentage points (Figure 1.12). In Turkey and Mexico, the same indicator in the two capital regions, Ankara and the Federal District, is over 30 percentage points higher than that in North-Eastern Anatolia (Turkey) and the state of Chiapas (Mexico) respectively. Among non-OECD countries, Brazil, Colombia and Russia also show large disparities in the proportion of people who have completed at least upper secondary education, ranging from 15 to 37 percentage points between the capital regions scoring at the highest and some of the provincial regions scoring at the lowest levels.

Within countries, regional differences in the educational attainment of the workforce have changed remarkably since 2000 (Figure 1.13). In most OECD countries, such difference has decreased, thanks to the improvements in the regions with relatively lower educated workforce. France and Mexico have experienced the largest decreases, respectively showing a 12 and 7 percentage points disparity across regions. However, on the other hand, other countries have witnessed an increase in regional differences. For example, in Portugal and Belgium, the differences between the highest and the lowest proportion of the workforce with at least upper secondary education increased by 11 and 4 percentage points respectively, as the better performing regions were able to continue increasing their share of highly educated individuals. Across the non-OECD countries considered, the share of the workforce with at least upper secondary education also increased everywhere. In the cases of Colombia and the Russian Federation more specifically, the lowering of regional disparities is mainly related to the high increase in educational attainment in the regions originally showing the lowest values.


Upper secondary education includes high schools, lyceums, vocational schools and preparatory school programmes (ISCED 3 and 4).


OECD (2015), OECD Regional Statistics (database),

See Annex B for data sources and country-related metadata.

Reference years and territorial level

2014; TL2 (TL3 for Estonia).

Further information

OECD (2015), Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD Regional Well-Being:

Figure notes

 1.12: Available years: Brazil, Canada, Estonia, Israel and United States 2013; Iceland and New Zealand 2012; Japan and Mexico 2010; for all the other countries the last year available is 2014.

 1.13: First year available: Slovenia and Switzerland 2001; Iceland 2003; Brazil 2004; Colombia and Finland 2005; Turkey 2006; Denmark 2007; Australia and Chile 2010; for all the other countries the first year available is 2000. Last year available: Brazil, Canada, Estonia, Israel and United States 2013; Iceland and New Zealand 2012; Japan and Mexico 2010.

Information on data for Israel:

1.12. Regional variation in the workforce with at least secondary education, 2014

1.13. Regional difference between the highest and lowest % of the workforce with at least secondary education, 2000 and 2014