Early leavers from education and training
- Data extracted in December 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: January 2017.
This article presents statistics on early leavers from education and training in the European Union (EU) and forms part of an online publication on education and training in the EU. Early leavers from education and training may face considerable difficulties in the labour market: for example, they may find it difficult to obtain a secure foothold as employers may be more reluctant to take them on with their limited education.
The strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (known as ET 2020) adopted a benchmark to be achieved by 2020, namely, that the share of early leavers from education and training should be not more than 10 % in the EU-28.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
Main statistical findings
An average of 11.2 % of young people (aged 18–24) in the EU-28 were early leavers from education and training in 2014, in other words having completed at most a lower secondary education and not being in further education or training during the four weeks preceding the survey. In this article, the terms 'early leavers' and 'early leavers from education and training' are used interchangeably.
Among the EU Member States, the proportion of early leavers in 2014 ranged from 2.7 % in Croatia (but with low reliability) to 21.9 % in Spain (see Figure 1).
The overall share of early leavers from education and training fell in the EU-28 by 3.0 percentage points between 2009 and 2014. It should be noted that there is a break in series for all countries shown in Figure 1 due to changes in the ISCED classification; nevertheless, at this broad level, the latest figures remain comparable with those for previous years. Among the EU Member States, the largest reductions (in percentage point terms) between 2009 and 2014 in the proportion of early leavers were in Portugal, Spain, Latvia, Malta and Greece, all reporting a fall in excess of 5.0 percentage points; this was also the case for Turkey and Norway among the non-member countries. There was an increase between 2009 and 2014 in the proportion of early leavers in Slovakia (up 1.8 percentage points) and Romania (1.5 percentage points), with the proportion relatively unchanged (+/- 0.1 percentage points) in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
As part of the Europe 2020 strategy, nearly all of the EU Member States have adopted national targets for this indicator, and these are also shown in Figure 1. By 2014, the proportion of early leavers was already below the national target in 14 Member States, equal to the target in the Czech Republic, but remained above the national target for 12 of the Member States; there is no national target for the United Kingdom. It should be noted that in 2009 Slovakia had already met its target, but in 2013 it moved above the target and remained above it in 2014. Lithuania, Luxembourg, Austria and Sweden had been below their targets in 2009 and remained so in 2014. Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Greece, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Slovenia moved from a position in 2009 above their national targets to a position below their targets in 2014.
The gap between the latest rate for early leavers from education and training and the national target for 2020 was particularly pronounced in Romania, Spain and Portugal (where the latest rates for 2014 were 7 percentage points higher than the target), and peaked in Malta where the difference was 10 percentage points; note that these four Member States also recorded the highest rates of early leavers in 2014.
Analysis by sex
The proportion of early leavers from education and training in 2014 in the EU-28 was 3.2 percentage points higher for young men (12.8 %) than for young women (9.6 %). Nearly all EU Member States reported a higher proportion of early leavers for young men than for young women, with particularly large differences — of at least 5.0 percentage points — in Cyprus, Estonia, Spain, Portugal, Latvia and Italy; this was also the case in Iceland among the non-member countries. The one exception among the Member States was Bulgaria, where the proportion of early leavers was marginally lower for young men than for young women, while among the non-member countries shown in Figures 2 and 3 both the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey reported clearly lower proportions of early leavers among young men than among young women.
In the EU-28, the proportion of early leavers fell between 2006 and 2014: the overall proportion fell 4.1 percentage points while the proportions for young men and for young women fell 4.6 and 3.6 percentage points respectively. Although, the proportion of early leavers fell more for young men than for young women in percentage point terms, the relation between the two proportions remained stable, with the proportion of early leavers among young men some 30–34 % higher than among young women throughout the period 2006–14.
Between 2006 and 2014, nearly all EU Member States reported a fall in the proportion of early leavers among young men, with increases of 0.5 percentage points or less in Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom, and a larger increase (1.7 percentage points) in Romania. Elsewhere the proportion fell: in 2014 the proportion of young men who were early leavers was at least 10.0 percentage points lower than in 2006 in Spain, Cyprus and Malta, while in Portugal the proportion fell by 25.4 percentage points between these two years.
Among young women, a broadly similar situation was observed. Four EU Member States — the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Slovakia — reported a higher proportion of young women who were early leavers in 2014 than they had in 2006, although the increases were all under 1.0 percentage points. Portugal again recorded the largest fall in the proportion of early school leavers, down 16.6 percentage points between 2006 and 2014 for young women. None of the other Member States recorded a fall in excess of 10.0 percentage points, although this was the case in Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Analysis by labour status
Early leavers from education and training may face heightened difficulties in the labour market. Figure 4 ranks the EU Member States according to the share of early leavers in the population aged 18–24 and presents an analysis of whether these early leavers are employed or not: those not in employment may or may not want to work. In 2014, the 11.2 % of early leavers from education and training were composed as such: a 4.5 % share of the EU-28’s population aged 18–24 were early leavers in employment, while 4.7 % were early leavers not employed but wanting to work, and the remaining early leavers (2.0 % of the population aged 18–24) were not employed and did not want to work. In 10 of the Member States there were more early leavers not employed but wanting to work than there were early leavers that were employed, notable cases being Spain, Italy and Bulgaria; this was also the case for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In 17 of the Member States the reverse was true, namely that there were more early leavers that were employed than early leavers not employed but wanting to work, the most notable case being Malta; this was also the case for four of the non-member countries shown in Figure 4, most notably for Iceland and Turkey.
As noted above, early leavers not employed and not wanting to work accounted for 2.0 % of the population aged 18–24 in the EU-28 in 2014, but this proportion was 1.4 % among young men and nearly twice as high, 2.7 % among young women (see Table 1). In all but 4 of the 19 EU Member States for which data are available for a similar analysis (in nine Member States the data are unreliable when broken down by sex), the proportion of young women who were early leavers and not wanting to work was higher than the equivalent proportion of young men: the exceptions were Portugal and Poland where the proportions were roughly the same, as well as Denmark and Finland where the proportion was higher among young men. The largest gender differences among the proportion of young people who were early leavers and not wanting to work were in Romania and Bulgaria, where the share among young women was 4.9 and 4.3 percentage points respectively higher than among young men; higher gender differences were recorded in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (where the share of female early leavers not wanting to work was 5.5 percentage points higher than among young male early leavers) and especially Turkey (23.1 percentage points).
In 11 EU Member States, both for young men and young women, more early leavers were employed than were not employed but wanted to work. In six other Member States — Bulgaria, Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia and Slovakia — the reverse was true. Greece was a special case as the proportions of early leavers who were employed and who were not employed but wanted to work were the same for young men, while for young women the proportion of those who were employed was clearly lower. In the remaining three Member States for which data are available — Belgium, Hungary and Poland — the division between these two categories varied according to sex: less young women who were early leavers were employed than were not employed but wanted to work, while for young men a higher proportion of early leavers were in employment.
Analysis by degree of urbanisation
Figure 5 presents an analysis of the proportion of early leavers from education and training according to the degree of urbanisation, with regions classified as cities, towns and suburbs, or rural areas. In 2014, the lowest proportion of early leavers in the EU-28 was reported in cities (1 in 10 young people); this share is in line with the benchmark set in the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (which foresees lowering the share of early leavers to not more than 10 % by 2020). In towns and suburbs the proportion of early leavers rose to 11.9 %, while it was higher still in rural areas, at 12.4 %.
Among the 24 EU Member States with data by degree of urbanisation, 15 reported a similar pattern to that observed for the EU-28 as a whole, in other words a higher proportion of early leavers in rural areas and a lower proportion in cities; this was also the situation in the three non-member countries shown in Figure 5. Belgium, Germany, Austria and Slovenia reported the opposite pattern, with cities having the highest proportion of early leavers and rural areas the lowest proportion. In the Czech Republic, Ireland, France and the United Kingdom the highest proportion of early leavers was reported in towns and suburbs.
Data sources and availability
More information is available in an article on the methodology of education statistics from the labour force survey.
The International standard classification of education (ISCED) is the basis for international education statistics, describing different levels of education; it was first developed in 1976 by UNESCO and revised in 1997 and again in 2011. ISCED 2011 distinguishes nine levels of education: early childhood education (level 0); primary education (level 1); lower secondary education (level 2); upper secondary education (level 3); post-secondary non-tertiary education (level 4); short-cycle tertiary education (level 5); bachelor’s or equivalent level (level 6); master’s or equivalent level (level 7); doctoral or equivalent level (level 8).
The first results based on ISCED 2011 have been published in 2015 starting with data for the 2014 reference period; data up to 2013 are based on ISCED 1997.
Early leavers from education and training denotes the percentage of the population aged 18–24 having attained at most lower secondary education and not being involved in further education or training.
- The numerator of the indicator refers to persons aged 18–24 who meet the following two conditions: (a) the highest level of education or training they have completed is ISCED 2011 levels 0, 1 or 2 (ISCED 1997 levels 0, 1, 2 or 3C short) and (b) they have not received any education or training (in other words neither formal nor non-formal) in the four weeks preceding the survey.
- The denominator is the total population of the same age group, excluding respondents who did not answer the questions ‘highest level of education or training successfully completed’ and ‘participation in education and training’.
Tables in this article use the following notation:
- Value in italics: data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;
- ':' not available, confidential or unreliable value;
- '-': not applicable
Tackling early leaving
Most Europeans spend significantly more time in education than the legal minimum requirement. This reflects the choice to enrol in higher education, as well as increased enrolment in pre-primary education and wider participation in lifelong learning initiatives, such as adults returning to education (see the adult education survey) — often in order to retrain or equip themselves for a career change. Nevertheless, around one in nine children leave school or training early and this has an impact on individuals, society and economies.
In January 2011, the European Commission adopted a Communication titled ‘Tackling early school leaving: a key contribution to the Europe 2020 agenda’ (COM(2011) 18 final). This outlined the reasons why pupils decide to leave school early — including for example, learning difficulties, social factors, or a lack of motivation, guidance or support — and gave an overview of existing and planned measures to tackle this issue across the EU.
In 2014, the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) jointly released a report on Tackling early leaving from education and training in Europe: strategies, policies and measures.
ET 2020 strategic framework
The strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training was adopted by the Council in May 2009. It sets out four strategic objectives for education and training in the EU: making lifelong learning and mobility a reality; improving the quality and efficiency of education and training; promoting equality, social cohesion and active citizenship; and enhancing creativity and innovation (including entrepreneurship) at all levels of education and training. This strategy set a number of benchmarks to be achieved by 2020, including that the share of early leavers from education and training should be not more than 10 %. This benchmark is also one of the Europe 2020 strategy and the European employment strategy.
- Education and training in the EU — facts and figures
- Being young in Europe today — education
- The EU in the world — education and training
Further Eurostat information
- The EU is moving closer to its Europe 2020 goals on education, News release April 2015
- Education and training outcomes (educ_outc)
- Transition from education to work (edatt)
- Early leavers from education and training (edatt1)
- Transition from education to work (edatt)
- Education and training outcomes (educ_outc)
Methodology / Metadata
- Educational attainment level and transition from education to work (ESMS metadata file — edat1_esms)
Manuals and other methodological information
Source data for tables and graphs (MS Excel)
- European Commission — Education and training — Early school leaving
- European Commission — Education and training — Strategic framework for education and training
- Eurydice — The information network on education in Europe
- OECD — Early childhood and schools
- UNESCO — Education for the 21st century