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OECD comparison:
Women and immigrants benefit from education less than others

Ministry of Education and Culture
11.9.2018 12.10 | Published in English on 13.9.2018 at 13.26
Press release

On Tuesday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published Education at a Glance 2018, its annual indicators used for comparing education systems. The topics examined in the publication include the educational level, enrolment in education, costs, student mobility, the provision of education, decision-making and the tasks and terms of employment of teachers in the 34 OECD member countries and a number of partner countries.

The theme of this year's Education at a Glance publication is equity in education. The results show that although the educational attainment has risen considerably in the last few decades, not everyone benefits from education to the same extent.

In Finland, women and foreign-born adults earn considerably less than native-born adults with the same level of qualification. Factors affecting an individual's educational path and employment include the educational attainment of the parents, gender, immigrant background and the country of birth. 

The information in the Education at a Glance 2018 publication concerns the period 2015-2017, the most recent years for which statistical information is available on the different areas examined.

Finland invests the second largest amount of public money and least private money in education

Of all countries in the comparison, Finland invests the second largest amount of public money in education in relation to the GNP (5.6%). It is surpassed only by Norway (6.3%).

The total funding used for education in Finland is slightly above the average across OECD countries (5.7% of GNP, the average is 5.0%). The discrepancy is explained by the fact that the amount of private money used for education in Finland is the lowest in the OECD countries (0.1%).

Enrolment in early childhood education and care on the increase, but below average

Although participation in early childhood education and care increased in Finland between 2005 and 2016, it remains clearly below the OECD average. Participation has at the same time increased also in the other countries. Compared to the other Nordic countries, the rate of participation in Finland is lower.

Children in a more vulnerable position participate less in early childhood education and care. The family's income level and the mother's educational background affect participation in most countries. The family background plays a part in Finland, too; however, less than on average across OECD countries.

The participation rate of the youngest children does not deviate from the OECD average. The differences in the year groups of 3 to 5-year-olds are 11 percentage points at their highest. The difference disappears when the year group of 6-year-olds is examined as almost the entire year group participates in pre-primary education.

The proportion of the costs of pre-primary education in the GNP in Finland is 1.2%, which is more than the OECD average (0.8%), but less than in the other Nordic countries (e.g. Sweden 1.9%).

Parents' educational attainment affects the individual's educational path

Children whose parents have low educational attainments (regarded as an indicator of a low socio-economic status) are enrolled in early childhood education less often and are less likely to graduate from upper secondary education and less likely to continue to tertiary education than those who have at least one tertiary-educated parent.  

On the other hand, in Finland, more people whose parents have not completed upper secondary education graduate from tertiary education than in the other countries. Their proportion in people aged between 25 and 64 was 35% while the OECD average is 20%. Only Canada, New Zealand and Russia surpass Finland when this indicator is used.

The proportion of new students with an immigrant background was lower in tertiary education than their proportion in the whole population. While 6% of 18 to 24-year-olds in Finland had an immigrant background, they represented only 3% of new students in tertiary education. Of the population of the same age, 22% had an immigrant background in Sweden, 15% in Norway and 9% in Estonia and they represented 18% of new students in Sweden, 10% in Norway and 5% in Estonia.

The educational level in the other OECD countries is rising

In the past ten years, almost one half or an even higher proportion of young adults (aged 25-34) in many of the OECD countries have completed a tertiary level qualification.

In Finland, the proportion of tertiary-educated people has risen only slightly in 10 years. While 39% of the age group of 25 to 34-year-olds had completed a tertiary level qualification in 2007, in 2017 the corresponding figure was 41%. Within the same period of time, the average of the OECD countries has risen from 34 to 44%. Finland therefore remains below the average.

Finland's aim in the vision for higher education and research in 2030 is that 50% of those aged between 24 and 34 will have completed a tertiary level qualification by 2030.

Of women, 50% have completed a tertiary level qualification (OECD average also 50%), but the proportion among men is only 33% (average in the OECD 38%).

In Finland, students start studies in tertiary education later than across OECD countries on average. Only 42% of the age group start tertiary education when aged under 25 – the rest of those who start their studies start when they are over 25. Consequently, only 38% of the age group graduates when aged under 30. Among 30 to 39-year-olds, the proportion of students is therefore still over 16%, while it is on average 6.5% in OECD countries.

In Finland, tertiary level qualifications are most commonly completed in the fields of technology and ICT. In 2016, one quarter of tertiary level qualifications were completed in these fields. Technology and ICT were more strongly represented only in Germany (27%), while the OECD average was 18%.

Other Nordic countries manage to keep highly educated people in the world of work longer

In more than one half of the OECD countries, employment among highly educated people has increased by at least five percentage points between 2007 and 2017. In some countries, such as Italy and Poland, the increase has been more than ten percentage points. Although employment among tertiary-educated people aged over 55 has increased in Finland over the ten-year-period, the increase has been at an average level in the OECD.

Compared with the neighbouring countries, employment among highly educated people aged between 55 and 64 is considerably lower in Finland. While in Finland fewer than 75% of highly educated people aged between 55 and 64 were in employment in 2017, the corresponding proportion was over 90% in Iceland, 84% in Sweden and 83% in Norway.       

Women and people with a foreign background earn less

In OECD countries, women earn on average 26% less than men. The differences in earnings have decreased over ten years. With 77%, Finland is near the OECD average (74%).  The employment rate among tertiary-educated women is also lower than that of men in OECD countries.

Among people aged between 24 and 64, foreign-born adults earned less than those with a similar level of qualification who were born in Finland. Especially the earnings of foreign-born holders of a tertiary level qualification were lower. They earned 24% less than their native-born peers. The differences were smaller among those with lower educational attainment.

Rapid increase in the number of students going abroad

In Finland, the number of those who go abroad to complete a higher education degree has risen faster than in many other countries between 2013 and 2016.

Although the number of those who go abroad has increased considerably in Finland, the proportion of tertiary level students studying abroad is only 4 per cent of all Finnish tertiary level students, which is only slightly over the OECD average (2%) and the same as in Sweden. For example, in Estonia, the proportion of tertiary level students studying abroad is eight per cent.

Number of international students in Finland higher than OECD average

When tertiary education as a whole is examined, the proportion of international students in Finland is above the OECD average (Finland 8%, OECD 6%). Of the other Nordic Countries, the proportion of international students in tertiary education is higher than in Finland only in Denmark (11%).

In international comparisons, the number of international students in Finland is high especially in the fields of computer science and communications. In addition, Finland receives more international students from non-OECD countries than the other Nordic countries, for example.

However, doctoral programmes in Finnish higher education institutions do not attract international students to the same extent as on average across OECD countries. In 2016, 21% of doctoral students in Finnish higher education institutions were international students, while the OECD average was 26%. In the other Nordic countries, the proportion of international doctoral students was higher than in Finland: 35% in Sweden, 22% in Norway, 34% in Denmark and 36% in Iceland.

Proportion of young people with NEET status has declined in Finland

In Finland, the proportion of young people with the NEET status (NEET = neither employed nor in education or training) in the age group has declined from what is was two years earlier, but their proportion in Finland is still high in international comparisons. In 2015, young people with the NEET status represented 18.3% of young people aged between 20 and 24 and 17.0% in 2017.

Compared with the proportion of NEETs in the age group ten years earlier, their proportion was still high as the corresponding figure was 13.3% in 2007. Last year's figure in Finland was higher than in the other Nordic countries and Estonia and also higher than on average in the EU and the OECD.

Regional differences in Finland are lower than in the other countries. The proportion of NEETs among people aged between 15 and 29 varied between 7% and 14%. For example, the variation was between 12% and 38% in Italy and between 5% and 28% in Russia last year.

In Finland, the NEET status is more common among men than among women. The differences between the male and female population have been calculated in the age group of 18 to 24-year-olds. In the majority of the OECD and partner countries, the proportion of NEETs among women is higher than among men. However, with the exception of Iceland, the proportion of those not studying or working and those in the inactive population is higher among men in the Nordic countries.

The figures also include people in different life situations, such as persons reading for entrance tests or those waiting for their military service to begin. Therefore, the NEET status does not necessarily mean that the young person would be marginalised or in danger of marginalisation.

- Early childhood education and care, basic education and upper secondary level: Kristiina Volmari (Finnish National Board of Education), tel. +358 295 331 276
- Higher education: Jukka Haapamäki (Ministry of Education and Culture), tel. +358 295 330088

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