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Report reveals the state of Europe's RTD human resources

The European Union produces more PhDs in the science and technology field than its main competitors, the United States and Japan, according to latest figures published by the European Commission.

A new report, entitled 'Science, Technology and Innovation - Key Figures 2002', reveals that 0.56 new PhDs per 1,000 population between the ages of 25 and 34 graduated in Europe in 2000, compared with 0.48 in the US and 0.24 in Japan. Sweden comes top of the table, with 1.24 new PhDs per thousand population, followed by Finland with 1.09 and Germany with 0.81.

Considerable progress has been made by several Member States to increase the number of PhDs coming out of their universities and research centres. Portugal produced 14% more PhDs in 2000 than the previous year, Finland's numbers are up 9.76%. followed closely by Greece with a 9.09% increase. Ireland and the Netherlands are the only Member States to record a negative growth figure, with 2.8% and 4.8% fewer PhDs respectively.

However, despite the generally positive PhD trends, the report notes that the number of researchers actually employed in Europe is lower than in the US and Japan. There are currently 920,000 full-time researchers employed in Europe, equivalent to 5.4 per 1,000 employees, compared to 8.08 in the US and 9.26 in Japan. As one would expect, the situation varies widely across the EU - Finland is by far the best performer, with 13.08 researchers per 1,000, followed by Sweden at 9.1 and Belgium at 6.95. Southern Europe lags behind the EU average, however, with Portugal, Greece and Italy employing only 3 researchers per 1,000 of their labour force. The outlook for the coming years looks good, with Greece, Finland, Ireland and Spain reporting growth rates in excess of 10%.

The report looks briefly at international mobility figures, showing the level of movement of human resources between countries. This is a good indicator of the openness and attractiveness of a country to researchers from abroad. It cites OECD figures on the flow of students between the world regions, showing that the United States and Canada are the most popular destinations for European researchers seeking work opportunities abroad and that most foreign researchers in the EU come from other European countries, Asia and Oceania.

The authors warn that the low level of researchers employed in Europe could have a negative impact on the EU's RTD capacity in the future and calls for more businesses to hire researchers. In an effort to meet the EU's short-term RTD needs, the report says it could "make sense" to attract researchers and students from abroad. The new Marie Curie Actions, which aim to promote scientific and research-related careers and to encourage the mobility of researchers, are expected to have a positive impact on future 'Key Figures' statistics.

last update: 05-02-2003