OECD alarm at high rate of Irish young outside work or training

Ireland’s education spend higher than average but ‘far below’ biggest spending states

The proportion of young people in Ireland who are neither employed nor in education or training is well above the European average, the OECD has warned in its latest survey of global education.

The 2014 “education at a glance” report highlights how those with a third-level qualification have coped with the recession better than those with lower qualifications.

Raising particular concern about NEETs (young people who are not in education, employment or training ), it says the percentage of Irish 15-29 year-olds in this bracket fell from 22 per cent to 21 per cent between 2011 and 2012.

However, “this proportion is still far higher than the EU21 and OECD average of 15 per cent.


Between 2010 and 2012, rates of non-participation in either jobs or training rose among those with least qualifications, it points out, while the opposite trend occurred with college graduates.

In 2012, the unemployment rate among young people with tertiary (further or third-level) education was 7 per cent, which was the fifth highest in the OECD. For those with lesser qualifications, the unemployment rate was 15 per cent, the third-highest in the OECD.

As in previous editions, the 2014 report shows Ireland has among the best paid teachers in the developed world but they also work longer hours on average here.

The breakdown of data also shows that the salary difference between Ireland and other countries is much lower at entry level to the profession.

Of the 36 OECD countries surveyed in 2012, Ireland ranked as having 11th highest entry-level salary at primary (€26,023) but the sixth highest finishing (or maximum) salary at €48,400. This compared to OECD averages of €22,816 at entry-level, rising to €36,390 at maximum salary.

A similar pattern plays out at post-primary level, where Ireland had the 14th highest starting salary (€29,942) and the ninth highest finishing salary at €48,402.

This compared to OECD average of €25,025 and €40,079 respectively.

Some countries show a greater variation in remuneration, notably South Korea which has for many years paid a premium for the highest performing teachers.

There the starting salary at primary level is €22,182 but teachers can then earn up to a maximum of €61,780.

The OECD says the results of its Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) suggests that “high performing systems tend to prioritise higher salaries for teachers, especially in high-income countries”, and systems that pay teachers more “tend to perform better in mathematics”.

On overall spending, Ireland continues to invest more in education per student than most OECD countries but only marginally so at primary level - with a spend per primary student of €6,610 in 2011 compared to an EU21 average of €6,580.

At secondary level, Ireland spent €8,923 per student compared to a European average of €7,459, and at third-level €12,486 compared to a survey average of €10,529.

Overall, the only OECD countries with greater educational expenditure per student were Canada and the United States.

In 2011, public expenditure on educational institutions represented 6.2 per cent of Ireland’s GDP, an increase from 5.7 per cent in 2008. While this expenditure is slightly above the average share of GDP expenditure for OECD countries of 5.6 per cent in 2011, it is “far below the highest values”, which were in the Scandinavian countries - spending between 6.8 per cent and 8.8 per cent of GDP in 2011, the report notes.

In other findings, the report shows that formal education in Ireland starts later on average, with only 42 per cent of 3-year-olds in Ireland participating in early education, an enrolment rate far lower than the EU21 average of 79 per cent and the OECD average of 70 per cent in the same year.

For 4-year-olds, however, Ireland’s enrolment rate was far higher than the average for OECD or EU21 countries; in 2012, 97 per cent of Irish 4-year-olds were enrolled in ECE, while the EU21 and OECD country enrolment averages were 89 per cent and 84 per cent respectively.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column