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The ESPON 2013 Operational Programme
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Persons with low educational attainment, 2010

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  • The national context largely defines the share of low-skilled population
  • In Central and Eastern Europe as well in Nordic countries, the share of low-skilled population is rather low. In Southern Europe more than 60 per cent of population does not have tertiary education
  • Just as important, only few countries disclose a wider range of domestic disparities, and rural-urban disparities do not seem to be significant

Observations for policy

The current pattern of low-skilled population largely depends on national socio-economic and policy contexts. In Central and Eastern Europe the share of low-skilled population is rather low whereas in Southern Europe more than 60 per cent of the population did not receive tertiary education.

Particular efforts are needed in areas with high shares of low-skilled population. This is particularly the case in Portugal or Turkey, but also in Spain and Greece. In some of these countries low-skilled population does not have access to adult education and training.

Policy context

Europe 2020 is the growth strategy of the European Union. The focus is on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. These three mutually reinforcing priorities shall help to deliver high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. At EU level, and within each Member State, concrete objectives, targets, and flagship initiatives have been defined to boost growth and jobs.

Low-skilled workforce is an important issue that needs to be tackled carefully to ensure smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe. One of the responses to this challenge lies on flexicurity, i.e. an integrated approach for enhancing flexibility and security in the labour market.

Map interpretation

The map shows the share of regional population aged 25-64 with low education levels. Secondary education represents a critical stage of the system that not only links initial education to higher education, but also connects the school system to labour market.

On the one hand, the map discloses a striking division between Central and Eastern Europe. One the other, differences in Southern Europe is quite visible. Most regions in Central and Eastern Europe have comparably low shares of low-skilled population. In contrast, Portugal and Spain, but also in the outermost regions, register the highest shares of low-skilled population in Europe. The same applies to the majority of regions in Turkey.

Overall the ratio tends to be uniform at the national scale due to the importance of the type of policies that are implemented in each country. In some countries however there are wider ranging domestic disparities, and particular rural-urban disparities do not seem to be present.

Concepts and methods

The indicator corresponds to the share of persons aged 25-64 with lower secondary education attainment. According to the ISCED it includes people with an education level lower than secondary school.


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