ICT education - a statistical overview
Data extracted in August 2018.
Planned article update: September 2019.
Women accounted for almost one quarter (23.8 %) of the total number of employed persons in the EU with an ICT education in 2007; this share had fallen to 16.3 % by 2017.
In 2007, just over two thirds (67.1 %) of those employed in the EU with an ICT education had attained a tertiary level of education; this share rose to almost three quarters (72.7 %) by 2017.
Employed persons with an ICT education at tertiary level of education, 2017
This article provides an overview of recent developments in relation to digital skills within the European Union (EU). More specifically, it presents a range of statistics that describe the composition of the EU labour force in possession of an information and communication technology (ICT) education, as defined by those having achieved formal qualifications at least at upper secondary level within the fields of computer use, computer science, database and network design and administration, or software and applications development and analysis. Many countries now regard understanding ICT and mastering the basic skills and concepts of ICT as part of core education, alongside reading, writing and numeracy, while prosperous countries, businesses and individuals are often characterised by developing advanced ICT skills as a key factor of their success.
With the increased application of digital technologies into a broad range of economic sectors such as manufacturing, energy, retail, transport, finance, education and healthcare, as well as the ICT sector itself, there has been rapid growth in the demand for ICT specialists. This has had a profound impact on the types of skills that are sought by employers across the EU, while policymakers have become increasingly concerned by digital skills shortages, which may result, among others, in less innovation, lower levels of productivity or slower overall economic growth.
General developments in the labour force for people with an ICT education
The EU-28 labour force is composed of persons who are in employment and those who are unemployed. In 2007, the EU-28 labour force (or the total number of economically active persons) that were in possession of an ICT education numbered 2.3 million persons; this number rose to 2.9 million persons by 2017 (see Figure 1). Of these, some 2.7 million persons aged 15-74 in the EU-28 were employed and in possession of an ICT education in 2017; by contrast, there were 237 thousand persons with an ICT education who were unemployed.
During the period 2007-2017, the unemployment rate for people with an ICT education reached its lowest level in 2008, just prior to the global financial and economic crisis, when it stood at 6.9 %. This rate subsequently rose to reach a peak of 11.1 % in 2012, as the number of employed persons with an ICT education contracted by 75 thousand persons (between 2011 and 2012). From 2012, the unemployment rate for this group decreased again, as the labour market for people with an ICT education started to expand, with particularly rapid growth in 2016, when the number of employed persons with this profile rose by 8.3 % compared with the year before; this was the highest employment growth rate since 2007. The latest information for 2017 shows there was a marked slowdown in the pace at which the number of employed persons with an ICT education was growing, as the annual rate of change was 0.6 %.
Relatively high unemployment rates in southern EU Member States for persons with an ICT education
While there was an overall increase between 2007 and 2017 in the size of the EU-28 labour force with an ICT education, there were varied developments across the EU Member States. In 2017, the share of the labour force with an ICT education who were in employment — as opposed to being unemployed — was 97.0 % or higher in Hungary, Estonia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic (where a peak of 100.0 % was registered). By contrast, a relatively high share of persons with an ICT education were unemployed in 2017 in Finland (12.6 %) — as well as four southern Member States — Italy (14.3 %), Spain (14.6 %), Portugal (15.6 %) and most notably Greece (which had the highest rate, at 26.4 %).
A comparison between 2007 and 2017 based on the share of the labour force with an ICT education who were in employment reveals there was little overall change in the situation at an EU-28 level. Some 92.6 % of the EU-28 labour force with an ICT education were employed in 2007, while a decade later this share was 0.7 percentage points lower, at 91.9 % in 2017.
Between 2007 and 2017, the share of the labour force with an ICT education that was employed rose by 5.5 percentage points in Slovakia (to 95.6 %), by 4.6 points in Hungary (to 97.0 %) and by 4.3 points in Poland (to 95.6 %) — see Figure 3. By contrast, the biggest reduction (10.8 percentage points) was recorded in Greece where the share of those employed fell to 73.6 %, while there were also relatively large declines in Portugal (-9.7 points), Spain (-8.1 points) and Cyprus (-6.0 points).
Employed persons with an ICT education by sex
Men accounted for more than four fifths of the total number of employed persons in the EU with an ICT education
In 2017, men accounted for an 83.7 % share of the 2.7 million persons in the EU-28 who were employed and in possession of an ICT education (see Figure 4), leaving women to account for the remaining 16.3 % of the labour force who were employed with an ICT education. This gender gap was present in each of the EU Member States in 2017, with the Czech Republic recording the highest share (92.8 %) for men in the total number of employed persons. The share of men in the total number of employed persons with an ICT education ranged from 70-90 % in each of the remaining EU Member States, with the exception of Bulgaria, where men accounted for around two thirds (66.2 %) of those employed with an ICT education.
Although a range of policy initiatives has been enacted across the EU in order to promote ICT studies among women, the latest statistical data available reveals that between 2007 and 2017 there was a decline in the number of women who were employed in the EU-28 with an ICT education. On average, this number fell by 1.6 % per annum during the period under consideration, while the number of men who were employed and possessed an ICT education grew by an average of 3.1 % per annum (see Figure 5).
These patterns for the EU-28 hide the fact that between 2007 and 2017 the number of employed persons with an ICT education grew, on average, for both men and women in 17 out of the 28 EU Member States. For the 11 exceptions, three cases emerged: there was no change in the number of women employed while there was an increase in the number of men employed (in Denmark and Cyprus); there was a reduction in the number of women employed while there was an increase in the number of men employed (in Ireland, Greece, Spain, Hungary and Poland); there was a reduction in both the number of men and women employed (in Italy, Portugal, Romania and the United Kingdom).
Employed persons with an ICT education by level of educational attainment
More tertiary graduates in ICT over time
In 2017, almost three quarters (72.7 %) of employed persons in the EU-28 with an ICT education had a tertiary level of educational attainment (see Figure 6). This was 5.6 percentage points higher than a decade before, when the corresponding share was 67.1 %.
There were however considerable variations between EU Member States as regards levels of educational attainment: in 2017, more than 9 out of 10 employed persons with an ICT education in France (97.1 %) and Cyprus (95.5 %) had completed a tertiary level of education. By contrast, a majority of those employed with an ICT education in Portugal (75.5 %) and Italy (62.7 %) did not have a tertiary level of education.
Between 2007 and 2017, the number of employed persons in the EU-28 with an ICT education at tertiary level grew, on average, by 3.0 % per annum; the corresponding rate of change for persons employed with an upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary level of educational attainment was lower, at 0.3 % per annum (see Figure 7). The three highest average annual growth rates for the number of employed persons with an ICT education at tertiary level were recorded in the Czech Republic (17.2 % per annum), Bulgaria (16.9 % per annum) and Slovakia (16.5 % per annum), while double-digit growth rates were also recorded in Austria, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Finland. By contrast, Portugal, Romania and the United Kingdom were the only Member States to report a decline in their number of employed persons with an ICT education at tertiary level during the period 2007-2017.
Employed persons with an ICT education by age
More than two thirds of the total number of employed persons in the EU with an ICT education were aged 15-34 years
In 2017, more than two out of every three (67.8 %) employed persons in the EU-28 with an ICT education were aged 15-34 years. Moreover, young people of this age accounted for a majority of the employed persons in possession of an ICT education in all but one of the EU Member States, the exception being Finland, where young people accounted for 37.8% of those employed with an ICT education. The share of young people in the total number of people employed with an ICT education was often relatively low in the Nordic and western EU Member States in 2017.
By contrast, those aged 15-34 years accounted for more than three quarters of the total number of employed persons with an ICT education in nine of the EU Member States in 2017: three eastern Member States, two of the three Baltic Member States and four southern Member States. The highest shares were recorded in Malta (87.1 %), Croatia (86.3 % and Lithuania (81.6 %).
During the period 2007 to 2017, the number of young employed persons with an ICT education rose, on average, by 1.5 % per annum across the EU-28, while the corresponding increase for those aged 35-74 years was 3.8 % per annum. During this period, the overall number of persons aged 15-34 years who were employed with an ICT education increased by 251 thousand, while there was a slightly larger increase for the number of persons aged 35-74 years, up 273 thousand. As a result, the share of young people aged 15-34 years in the total number of employed persons with an ICT education in the EU-28 fell from 72.5 % to 67.8 % between 2007 and 2017. This change may reflect, at least to some degree, the retirement of older workers who entered the labour market before ICT studies were common.
Source data for tables and graphs
The data used in this article are derived from the EU Labour Force Survey (LFS). The information presented is based on microdata from the LFS and covers the population aged 15-74 in order to be aligned with a range of other indicators relating to digital skills which are collected as part of the Community survey on ICT usage in households and by individuals.
Within the LFS, the labour force — or economically active population — covers the sum of employed and unemployed persons; it therefore excludes persons who are economically inactive, such as students, people choosing not to work, and the retired.
Employment is defined as persons aged 15-74 who were in one of the following categories: (a) persons who during the reference week worked for at least one hour for pay or profit or family gain or (b) persons who were not at work during the reference week but had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent. As such, the total number of employed persons includes employees, self-employed persons and family workers. Note that the collection of statistics on employed persons with an ICT education is carried out across the whole economy and no information is collected as to the principal economic activity in which each person works; equally, the data collection exercise does not provide information in relation to the occupations/tasks that are carried out (in other words, it is possible that some employed persons with an ICT education made little or no use of their studies in their work).
Unemployed persons comprise those aged 15-74 who: (a) were not employed according to the definition of employment above; (b) were currently available for work; (c) actively sought work during the four-week period prior to the reference week; or (d) had found a job to start within a period of at most three months from the end of the reference week.
ICT education is defined in terms of the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) fields of education. For data prior to 2014, ICT education covers computer science and computer use. However, from 2014 onwards, the field of ICT education covers computer use, database and network design and administration, software and applications development and analysis, inter-disciplinary programmes and qualifications. As such, there is a break in series in 2014 for the EU-28 aggregate, as well as for each of the individual EU Member States, EFTA and candidate countries.
Levels of education refer to the educational attainment of a person, in other words, to the highest level of education successfully completed. The levels are defined in terms of the ISCED 2011 classification, with tertiary education comprising ISCED levels 5-8 and non-tertiary education comprising ISCED levels 3 and 4 (upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education). Note that the EU's LFS does not collect data on fields of education for those people with less than primary or lower secondary educational attainment.
For data on educational attainment based on the EU's LFS, ISCED 2011 is applied as of reference year 2014. For data up to reference year 2013, ISCED 1997 was used. Comparability over time has been impacted by a break in series due to the introduction of the revised version of ISCED and the introduction of an age filter (for the variable describing the field of education). The impact of this change on ICT education statistics is minimal due to the applied aggregation approach: data is broken down into two educational attainment level groups, (1) upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED levels 3 and 4) and (2) tertiary education (ISCED levels 5-8), which means that the coding changes within the classifications occurred within these two groups (rather than across different groups). This was the case for all countries except Austria, where a level shift break took place due to the reclassification of a programme spanning different levels: the qualification acquired upon successful completion of higher technical and vocational colleges is allocated in ISCED 2011 to ISCED level 5, whereas under ISCED 1997 the same qualification was reported at ISCED level 4 (but earmarked as equivalent to tertiary education).
The introduction of ISCED-F 2013 may have an impact on EU LFS data from 2016 onwards. However, this change had no impact on ICT education indicators due to the direct correspondence between codes for this field of education in the two versions of the classification.
Data for reference period 2014 onwards introduced an age filter for the variable that describes the field of education: from 2014 onwards, the field of education was reported only for respondents who completed their highest level of educational attainment either before they reached 34 years old or within the 15 years preceding the survey year. This change had a marginal effect on the ICT education data, except for an analysis of employed persons with an ICT education by age (isoc_ski_itage).
Digitalisation and automation can generate new business opportunities through the development of new production processes, new products and new markets. This may drive the demand for new skills in the workplace, which in turn leads to changes in education systems which may have to adapt to technological changes in order to provide students with up-to-date training and education that meets the requirements of prospective employers.
In recent years, EU policies have given greater attention to ICT skills and in particular to the employment of ICT specialists. The recently updated Digital Single Market strategy emphasises the need for policies designed to boost stability in European labour markets and improve the EU’s competitive position by promoting digitalisation. At the same time, an important objective of European employment policy is to ensure that workers in the EU-28 acquire higher-end skills needed in order to prevent the loss of key ICT jobs to other regions of the world. The New Skills Agenda for Europe (2016) launched a number of actions to ensure that the right training, the right skills and the right support is available for people in the EU. One such action, the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition supports cooperation between education, employment and industry to develop a pool of digital talent in the EU-28, while ensuring that individuals and the labour force in general are equipped with adequate digital skills. The European Commission is bringing together EU Member States and a range of stakeholders to pledge actions and to monitor progress in developing digital skills through its Digital Progress Report and the Digital Economy and Society Index.
- Science, technology, digital society
- Digital economy and society (isoc)
- Digital skills (isoc_sk)
- ICT training (isoc_skt)
- Persons with ICT education by labour status (isoc_ski_itemp)
- Employed persons with ICT education by sex (isoc_ski_itsex)
- Employed persons with ICT education by educational attainment level (isoc_ski_itedu)
- Employed persons with ICT education by age (isoc_ski_itage)
- ICT training (isoc_skt)
- Digital skills (isoc_sk)
- Digital economy and society (isoc)
- ICT training (ESMS metadata file — isoc_skt_esms)
- Employment and unemployment (labour force survey) (ESMS metadata file — employ_esms)
- ICT employment statistics in Europe: measurement methodology