Education affects employment and wages
Educational attainment has been continuously improving in the EU and particularly in CEE. The convergence story of CEE has also been supported by the improving educational attainment level. Since 2005, the share of people with tertiary education increased from 20% to 28% in the EU, while in CEE8 it almost doubled (up from 13.8% to 26.5%). However, the share of people with tertiary education in the region remains below the European average of 30.2%, with Romania having the biggest gap.
Interestingly, the gender education gap also widened, with more females obtaining a higher level of education than males. Back in 2005, the gap was almost non-existent, while in 2019 it was 3pp in the Eurozone and as much as 7pp in the CEE region.
At the same time, higher educational attainment is associated with a lower risk of being unemployed. Last year in CEE, the average unemployment rate of those with tertiary education stood at 2.2%, compared to 3.5% of those with upper secondary education. The premium seems to be particularly high, however, if compared to those who have only primary education, for whom the unemployment rate was at 10.3% in 2019.
Within CEE, Slovakia clearly stands out, as one in four people with primary education remains unemployed, while in other CEE countries it is one in ten people, at most. In Slovakia, such a high unemployment rate in the group with primary education is most likely driven by the Roma minority. During times of crisis, those with primary education also seem to be more exposed to job loss. Over the following three years after the 2009 crisis, the unemployment rate of those with primary education went up by almost 4pp, while those with upper secondary and tertiary education saw a rise of roughly 2pp.