As in the years before the Covid-19 crisis, “the higher the educational attainment level, the lower the risk of unemployment”.
In the third quarter of 2022, twenty eight member states of the PES Network recorded a decrease in unemployment compared to the same quarter last year, and in eighteen countries the average unemployment rate was lower than in the third quarter of 2019.
Persons with tertiary qualifications in particular benefited from the good economic development in the first half of 2022, but unemployment of persons with low qualifications also decreased significantly in twelve member countries, however current developments might reduce the opportunities of unqualified persons again.
Since 2013, the unemployment rate of persons with low qualifications has been decreasing, this trend – after a small increase in the years 2020 and 2021 of the pandemics – continues again in 2022. The unemployment rates of persons with medium and high qualifications also follow this trend.
Figure 1: Average unemployment rate of the member states of the European Union by educational attainment level from 2019 to 2021
Source: Database – Eurostat une_educ_a
In the internationally comparable labour market data, persons are classified according to the following formal qualification levels:
– ISCED level 0-2 (less than primary, primary and lower secondary education) hereafter referred to as “persons with low qualifications“.
– ISCED levels 3 and 4 (upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education) hereafter referred to as “persons with intermediate qualifications“.
– ISCED level 5-8 (tertiary education) hereafter referred to as “persons with high qualifications”
The unemployment rate (15 to 74 years) of persons with low qualifications in Europe was on average 12.2% in the third quarter of 2022. Employees with medium qualifications had a much lower risk of becoming unemployed at 5.7%, and for people with high qualifications the rate was even at just 3.7%. The average unemployment rates for all educational attainment levels were thus below the pre-crisis level (compared to the third quarter of 2019).
Figure 2: Average unemployment rate of the member states of the European Union by educational attainment level; 3rd quarter 2019 to 3rd quarter 2022
Source: Database – Eurostat une_educ_q
Not only across the EU average, but for all member states of the PES Network, the following is applicable: high unemployment rates for persons with ISCED level 0-2, unemployment rates at the level of the overall rate for persons with medium qualifications and significantly lower rates for persons with tertiary education.
The development of the unemployment rate by educational attainment level showed remarkable differences across the member states of the PES Network over a three-year comparison. In nine countries, the unemployment rate of persons in all ISCED categories was lower than in the third quarter of 2019. In twelve countries, the unemployment rate of persons with a low level of educational attainment decreased, and seventeen countries recorded a decrease in the unemployment rate of persons with a tertiary level of educational attainment in a three-year comparison.
Despite the decrease in the unemployment rate of persons with low qualifications in twelve European countries, the risk of becoming unemployed remained high in this group of persons: on average in Europe the unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2022 was 2.1 times that of persons with intermediate qualifications and 3.3 times that of persons with tertiary qualifications.
In Sweden, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the gap was particularly wide in the third quarter of 2022: the unemployment rate of people with low qualifications was 8.3 times that of people with high qualifications in Sweden, 13.9 times in the Czech Republic and 14.9 times in Slovakia.
Figure 3: Average unemployment rate of the member states of the PES network by educational attainment level 0-2 and 5-8 (low and high qualification level) in the third quarter of 2022
These trends are also remarkable insofar as the number of unemployed and employed persons overall (15 to 74 years) has been increasing for years, but the number of persons with low qualification levels on the labour market has been declining.
The level of educational attainment shifted significantly towards tertiary education in the three-year interval as in the years before; the growth rate of this group of persons was 9.7% on average in Europe (comparison of the third quarter of 2022 with the third quarter of 2019).
Figure 4: EU-27 employed and unemployed persons by educational attainment level (in thousands); 3rd quarter of 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 in thousands
Source: Database – Eurostat lfsi_educ_q and une_educ_q
Final remark: Fortunately, more and more people are succeeding in completing educational training beyond compulsory schooling. This is a positive development which is also strongly fostered by the European Youth Guarantee and the Public Employment Services. Nevertheless, further efforts are absolutely indispensable because although there are fewer people with low qualifications on the labour market, their job opportunities are noticeably decreasing.