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Europe gradually raising education levels, but still a quarter of all adults left school with a low qualification

In the EU, around 74 million adults have a low qualification, 27% of the population aged 25-64

Cedefop forecasts indicate a considerable drop in the demand for low qualified workers between 2010 and 2020. Developing a skilled workforce responding to labour market needs is an important element of the EU guidelines for employment policies.


Key points

  • In the EU (2010 data), there are around 74 million low skilled adults (with at most lower secondary educational attainment), corresponding to 27% of the population aged 25-64. The remaining population has a medium level education (47%) or a high level (26%).
  • Low skilled tends to be higher in southern Europe. Malta and Portugal (respectively 71% and 68%), followed by Spain (47%), Italy (45%) and Greece (37%) show the highest shares of people with at most a lower secondary educational attainment.
  • Compared to 2005, low skilled people in the EU dropped by around 6.7 million. Their share among 25-64 year olds decreased by 3.4 percentage points. Over the same period, the proportion of people with medium level education was stable.
  • The share of low skilled people decreased in all countries for which comparable time series are available. Countries with biggest drops are: Luxembourg Ireland, Cyprus Bulgaria and Portugal (with drops by more than 5 percentage points).

Notes: The indicator presented here is the percentage of individuals aged 25-64 with a low educational attainment (i.e. having completed at most lower secondary education). Data originates from the European Labour Force Survey and are subject to its methodology.

Statistics and graphs Details