Financial Crisis Amplifies Education's Value

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LONDON -- The global financial crisis has amplified the value of a good education, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

"The people who really paid the price for the financial crisis are those without baseline qualifications," Andreas Schleicher, the O.E.C.D.'s deputy director for education and skills, said last week at a London news conference.

Unemployment rates were nearly three times higher for workers without a high school degree (13 percent) compared with college graduates (5 percent), according to "Education at a Glance," the O.E.C.D.'s annual survey of education in the developed world.

The survey, which was released last week at the news conference, covered the organization's 34 member countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

The crisis has widened the earnings gap, so that college or university graduates now earn an average of 1.5 times as much as adults with only a high school diploma, who in turn earn 25 percent more than adults without one.

According to the O.E.C.D., young Britons spend an average of 2.3 years in neither education nor work before the age of 30, compared with 1.1 years in the Netherlands and 1.7 years in Germany. So, although Britain also has a relatively high proportion of young people in college, Mr. Schleicher said, many others were so pessimistic about finding a job that they had "given up, more or less."

"You might expect that as more and more people go to college the earnings premium for a degree would begin to decline, but so far it seems not to be the case," Mr. Schleicher said. "The demand for skilled workers is still rising faster than the supply."

The report also found that public spending on education, which had been steadily increasing across O.E.C.D. member nations until the 2008 financial crisis, has started to decline. But the effect on spending has been uneven. In Greece, the education budget was cut 19 percent in the past two years, while other countries have maintained funding at pre-crisis levels.

Mr. Schleicher praised Britain's willingness to raise university tuition fees, calling the French, German and Italian systems of free tuition "unsustainable."

He also warned, however, that Britain was in danger of falling far behind other countries when it came to helping young people find jobs.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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