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Unemployment squeeze felt most by the low-skilled

Increase in unemployment rate for low-educated makes them three times more likely to be unemployed than the tertiary-educated


(click image for full size)     Data source: EU LFS, Eurostat.

Between 2004 and 2007 the unemployment rate for low- and medium-educated people in the EU (2.4 percentage points) dropped considerably. But this changed in 2008, with a sharp increase in the unemployment rate for the low-educated. For those with medium-level education, the unemployment rate fell overall in 2008, but this belies a sharper increase in the last quarter (see below). In Europe, many people at this level have graduated from vocationally-oriented programmes.
This indicator expresses the annual average unemployment rate for people in the labour force by level of education, and can be complemented by indicators on employment or even the number of working hours.

Key points

  • There was a considerable rise in the unemployment rate for low-educated people in the labour force in the EU in 2008 (0.6 percentage points), with the low-educated in countries like Spain (4.2 percentage points), Latvia (3.7 percentage points) and Ireland (2.0 percentage points) particularly hard hit.
  • Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for people with upper secondary, or post-secondary non-tertiary level education, many of whom took vocationally-oriented studies, fell overall from 6.0 % to 5.6 % between 2007 and 2008 (annual average).
  • However, quarterly 2008 data from Eurostat show a marked increase in the unemployment rate of the medium-educated from 5.2 % in Q3 to 5.7 % in Q4.
  • The unemployment rate for people with tertiary level education stabilised at 3.4 %, making the low-educated almost three times more likely to be unemployed than the tertiary educated, even if Spain, Latvia and Ireland also saw higher unemployment amongst tertiary educated.

The data come from Eurostats Labour Force Survey (EU LFS), and are subject to its methodology.

Statistics and graphs Details

27/11/2009
Cedefop