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Education and its impact on young people’s opportunities

Lígia Ferro, Universidade de Porto; Pedro Abrantes, Universidade Aberta e ISCTE– Instituto Universitário de Lisboa

Using two key indicators (early school leaving and educational levels obtained by young people), the evolution of young people’s educational paths in Portugal and Spain is interpreted. Based on comparative data from Eurostat and the OECD, the figures explore the impact of the education levels achieved, both on the employment opportunities of the young adult population in Portugal and in Spain and on their participation in social, community, cultural, sporting, and artistic life. It also highlights the continuing importance of education as a social elevator, not only in the field of employment, but also in other areas of society.
Key points
  • 1
       The evolution over the last twenty years of the proportion of young people aged 18-24 who have not completed upper secondary education has been positive, but with very different speeds: slow at the European level, moderate in Spain and high in Portugal.
  • 2
       Closer examination of the education level of the young adult population aged 25 to 29 confirms the very positive progress made in Portugal and Spain. Despite these advances, both countries are characterised by high numbers of young people with a higher level of education and also of young people with a basic level, which poses risks of segregation and social polarisation.
  • 3
       People with higher education continue to present higher employment rates than those with only a secondary qualification. Over the last two decades, youth employment rates have decreased in Portugal and increased in Spain, but inequality between highly qualified and low-qualified young people has increased in both countries.
  • 4
       The social participation of young people is much higher in cultural and sporting activities, as well as in family and friendship relationships, with relatively low figures for citizen participation and artistic practices. These patterns are common throughout Europe, but are especially pronounced in Portugal and Spain.
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