At 14.8 %, the crisis-induced EU unemployment rate for low-educated adults is five percentage points higher than in 2008 and well above average.

Adult learning provides a means of upskilling or reskilling those affected by unemployment, restructuring and career transitions. It makes an important contribution to social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development. This is particularly important for low-skilled adults (Council Resolution on a renewed European agenda for adult learning).

Eurostat data for 2011 on unemployment among low-skilled adults help to highlight the impact of the crisis and the challenges ahead for adult learning and employment policies.

The indicator considered here is the unemployment rate for adults with low educational attainment. The data refer to 25-64 year-olds with at most lower secondary education (ISCED levels 0-2) who were unemployed. It is expressed as a percentage of the economically active population.

Key points

  • In 2011, about 72.5 million 25-64 year olds in the EU had low educational attainment. Their unemployment rate was 14.8 %, well above the corresponding rate for all adults (8.4%) and for adults with a medium or high educational attainment (7.6 % or 5.0 % respectively).
  • In 2011, the unemployment rate for low-educated adults was over 15 % in 11 EU countries, Rates were highest in Slovakia (39.2 %) and Lithuania (37.3 %) followed by the other nine countries: Estonia (26.4 %), Spain (26.4 %), Latvia (25.8 %), Bulgaria (25.5 %), Hungary (23.1 %), Ireland (21.7 %), the Czech Republic (21.6 %), Greece (17.0 %) and Poland (16.9 %). The corresponding rate in the other 15 countries varied between 5.4 % for the Netherlands and 13.9 % for Germany.
  • In the period 2008-11, unemployment of adults with low educational attainment grew by 5.0 percentage points in the EU. Over the same period, EU unemployment rates for adults with a medium and high level of education rose by 2.0 and 1.5 percentage points respectively.
  • Compared to 2008, the 2011 unemployment rates of low-educated adults were higher in almost all the EU countries shown (in Spain, Ireland, Greece, Latvia and Bulgaria levels rose by more than 10 percentage points). Only Germany shows a decrease of 2.4 percentage points, most of which was achieved between 2010 and 2011.



The indicator considers the number of adults (i.e. 25-64 year-olds) with low educational attainment (i.e. with at most initial lower secondary education) without work during the reference week, and currently available for work or either actively seeking work in the past four weeks or having already found a job to start within the next three months. The indicator expresses this number (i.e. adults aged 25-64 with low educational attainment) as a percentage of the economically active population, which comprises employed and unemployed persons.

Data are annual averages taken from the EU Labour force survey and are subject to its methodology. Data were extracted from the Eurostat online database on 25 April 2012. When interpreting the data, possible differences in national implementation of the EU LFS should be taken into account.

There is a break in series in 2011 for Belgium, Portugal and United Kingdom. Data for Estonia (2008) are not presented due to lack of availability. Data for Lithuania, Slovenia (2008) and Luxembourg are not presented due to lack of reliability in the time series examined here.