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Commission says OECD findings confirm importance of investment in education for EU growth and jobs

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512px-adding_protective_covering_to_new_pinot_noir_plantingsThe European Commission welcomes the launch today (9 September)  of Education at a Glance 2014, the annual report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the state of play and challenges faced by national education systems. It highlights the growing importance of investment in education for future growth and employment in the EU and for more inclusive European societies.

The report covers the 34 OECD member countries, including 21 EU member states (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). Latvia, although not an OECD member, is also included in the report as an OECD partner country.

"This report is a major source of knowledge and evidence for policy-makers; it contributes to increasing our understanding of the challenges we face. It also shows that there are still big differences between EU member states in the level of skills among both recent graduates and older age groups. The report is consistent with the Commission's policy: increasing the quality of education and raising skills levels is a smart investment and a powerful way of combating inequalities in our societies,said Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. "We need to ensure that young people in particular are equipped with the skills they will need in their working life and that we provide continuing learning opportunities for adults."

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In Brussels today, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD Director for Education and Skills, will present Education a Glance 2014 and Xavier Prats Monné, European Commission Director General for Education and Culture, will comment on the relevance and implications of the findings for EU and member states' policies. The briefing takes place in the Jean Rey meeting room of the Commission's Berlaymont building at 11am.

Main findings about the EU in Education at a Glance 2014:

  • Educational opportunities continue to expand significantly in Europe. The share of the adult population with tertiary education has steadily increased in most EU countries during the past decade (to 29%), although the EU still lags behind the OECD average (33%). The share of pupils with upper secondary qualifications has remained stable, while the share of those with less than upper secondary education has decreased. The report confirms the Commission's analysis that, if current trends continue, the Europe 2020 targets of at least 40% of young people completing tertiary education and less than 10% leaving school before completing upper secondary education are within reach.

  • High levels of education and skills pay off for both individuals and society. a higher education graduate with the highest literacy skills – as measured by the OECD Survey of Adult Skills – earns 45% more on average than a similarly educated adult with the lowest literacy level. In general, in all OECD countries, people with higher education levels are more likely to be employed; and the higher the education level, the higher are average earnings. Society at large also gains through reduced public spending on welfare and through taxes: on average the public net return on an individual with tertiary education is two to three times the amount invested.

  • Similar levels of educational attainment do not always mean similar levels of skills. There are significant differences in the EU between the skills levels of people with similar qualifications: recent upper secondary graduates in countries such as the Netherlands and Finland score similarly or higher in literacy skills than higher education graduates from Ireland, Italy, the UK and Spain.

  • The right skills matter during the transition from education to work. A recent study published by the European Commission highlighted that professional expertise is paramount but interpersonal skills such as communication and team work are becoming more important and that work experience during studies is a plus for the employability of higher education graduates.

  • The teacher population is ageing. On average in EU countries 37% of secondary school teachers are aged at least 50. The share is 45% or more in Austria, Estonia, Germany and the Netherlands and 60% in Italy. This underlines the importance of maintaining or increasing the attractiveness of the teaching profession, an issue on which the Commission recently published a detailed study with recommendations on improving initial and continuing teacher training and early career support.

  • Private investment in tertiary education is growing. The share of private expenditure in tertiary education has risen from 14% in 2000 to 21% in 2012 in EU countries, notably due to increased or newly introduced tuition fees in some countries. The share of private expenditure is still significantly below the 31% OECD average, and there are large differences between EU countries, ranging from 6% in Denmark and Finland to 65% in the UK. A recent study published by the Commission concludes that student support systems (grants and/or loans) are crucial for offsetting the impact of tuition fees on student enrolments.

Background

Education at a Glance draws on data compiled by the OECD, Eurostat and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The 2014 publication also draws from the results of recent OECD surveys: Survey of Adult Skills, PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment measuring the skills of 15 year olds, and TALIS, the Teaching and Learning International Survey on teachers and school leaders.

The Commission welcomes the report in the context of the recent strengthened cooperation agreement between the Education Department of the OECD and the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the Commission in the analysis of education systems.

For more information

Briefing by Andreas Schleicher and Xavier Prats-Monné webstreamed here and their presentations are available here.
Link to the full report Education at a Glance 2014

European Commission: Education and training for growth and jobs

Annex 1. Employment rates, by educational attainment (2012)

Annex 2. Mean monthly earnings, by literacy proficiency level (2012)

Employment

Only 5% of total applications for long-term skilled work visas submitted in first quarter came from EU citizens, data shows

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The figures released by the UK Home Office give an indication of how Britain’s new post-Brexit immigration system will affect numbers of EU citizens coming to the UK to work. Between January 1 and March 31 this year EU citizens made 1,075 applications for long-term skilled work visas, including the health and care visa, which was just 5% of the total 20,738 applications for these visas.

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “It is still too early to say what impact the post-Brexit immigration system will have on the numbers and characteristics of people coming to live or work in the UK. So far, applications from EU citizens under the new system have been very low and represent just a few percent of total demand for UK visas. However, it may take some time for potential applicants or their employers to become familiar with the new system and its requirements.”

The data also shows that the number of migrant healthcare workers coming to work in the UK has risen to record levels. 11,171 certificates of sponsorship were used for health and social care workers during the first quarter of this year. Each certificate equates to a migrant worker. At the start of 2018, there were 3,370. Nearly 40 percent of all skilled work visa applications were for people in the health and social work sector. There are now more migrant healthcare visa holders in the UK than at any time since records began in 2010. Although the number of sponsor licences for healthcare visas dropped to 280 during the first lockdown last year, it has continued to rise since, a pattern which was unaffected by the third lockdown this winter.

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Conversely, the IT, education, finance, insurance, professional, scientific and technical sectors have all seen a drop in the number of migrants employed so far this year, despite rallying during the second half of 2020. The number of migrant IT workers is still significantly lower than pre-Covid levels. In the first quarter of 2020 there were 8,066 skilled work visas issued in the IT sector, there are currently 3,720. The number of migrant professionals and scientific and technical workers has also dipped slightly below pre-Covid levels.

Visa expert Yash Dubal, Director of A Y & J Solicitors said: “The data shows that the pandemic is still affecting the movement of people coming to the UK to work but does give an indication that demand for skilled work visas for workers outside the EU will continue to grow once travel has been normalised. There is particular interest in British IT jobs from workers in India now and we expect to see this pattern continue.”

Meanwhile the Home Office has published a commitment to enable the legitimate movement of people and goods to support economic prosperity, while tackling illegal migration. As part of its Outcome Delivery Plan for this year the department also pledges to ‘seize EU exit opportunities, through creating the world’s most effective border to increase UK prosperity and enhance security’, while acknowledging that income it collects from visa fees may decrease due to reduced demand.

The document reiterates the Government’s plan to attract the "brightest and best to the UK".

Dubal said: “While the figures relating to visas for IT workers and those in the scientific and technical sectors do not bear this commitment out, it is still early days for the new immigration system and the pandemic has had a profound effect on international travel. From our experience helping facilitate work visas for migrants there is a pent-up demand that will be realised over the coming 18 months.”

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Economy

NextGenerationEU: Four more national plans given thumbs up

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Economy and finance ministers today (26 July) welcomed the positive assessment of national recovery and resilience plans for Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia. The Council will adopt its implementing decisions on the approval of these plans by written procedure.

In addition to the decision on 12 national plans adopted earlier in July, this takes the total number to 16. 

Slovenia’s Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said: “The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the EU’s programme of large-scale financial support in response to the challenges the pandemic has posed to the European economy. The facility’s €672.5 billion will be used to support the reforms and investments outlined in the member states’ recovery and resilience plans.”

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Reforms and investments

The plans have to comply with the 2019 and 2020 country-specific recommendations and reflect the EU’s general objective of creating a greener, more digital and more competitive economy.

Croatia plans to implement to reach these goals include improving water and waste management, a shift to sustainable mobility and financing digital infrastructures in remote rural areas. 

Cyprus intends, among other things, to reform its electricity market and facilitate the deployment of renewable energy, as well as to enhance connectivity and e-government solutions.

Lithuania will use the funds to increase locally produced renewables, green public procurement measures and further developing of the rollout of very high capacity networks.

Slovenia plans to use a part of the allocated EU support to invest in sustainable transport, unlock the potential of renewable energy sources and further digitalise its public sector.

Poland and Hungary

Asked about delays to the programmes of Poland and Hungary, the EU’s Economy Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said that the Commission had proposed an extension for Hungary to the end of September. On Poland, he said that the Polish government had already requested an extension, but that that might need a further extension. 

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Economy

EU extends scope of general exemption for public aid for projects

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Today (23 July) the Commission adopted an extension of the scope of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER), which will allow EU countries to implement projects managed under the new financial framework (2021 - 2027), and measures that support the digital and green transition without prior notification.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said: “The Commission is streamlining the state aid rules applicable to national funding that fall under the scope of certain EU programmes. This will improve further the interplay between EU funding rules and EU state aid rules under the new financing period. We are also introducing more possibilities for member states to provide state aid to support the twin transition to a green and digital economy  without the need of a prior notification procedure.”

The Commission argues that this will not cause undue distortions to competition in the Single Market, while making it easier to get projects up and running.  

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The concerned national funds are those relating to: Financing and investment operations supported by the InvestEU Fund; research, development and innovation (RD&I) projects having received a “Seal of Excellence” under Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe, as well as co-funded research and development projects or Teaming actions under Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe; European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) projects, also known as Interreg.

Projects categories that are considered to help the green and digital transition are: Aid for energy efficiency projects in buildings; aid for recharging and refuelling infrastructure for low emission road vehicles; aid for fixed broadband networks, 4G and 5G mobile networks, certain trans-European digital connectivity infrastructure projects and certain vouchers.

In addition to the extension of the scope of the GBER adopted today, the Commission has already launched a new revision of the GBER aimed at streamlining state aid rules further in light of the Commission priorities in relation to the twin transition. Member states and stakeholders will be consulted in due course on the draft text of that new amendment.

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