sábado, 11 de setembro de 2021

Structure and evolution of the various levels of education in the EU (2011/20)


1 - Educational profiles of the European population

2 - Level of qualifications (0-2)

3 - Level of qualifications (3-4)

4 - Level of qualifications (5-8)

Historical note

 M/W distribution by educational level[1] in the EU (population 15/64 years old) (%)


















































































































1 - Educational profiles of the European population

Very briefly, in the table above and, for the decade considered, there is a reduction in the volume of people with the lowest qualifications, compensated by the increase in the group with the highest levels of education; and, with a relative stagnation of the weight of the set that encompasses people with an intermediate education (3-4). The weight of women with higher qualifications, in total, increased more than that of men; and on the other hand the fall among women with the lowest qualifications is more pronounced than that observed among the men.


[1]   Levels of education of the population aged 15/64:

0-2 - Less than primary, primary and lower secondary

3-4 – Upper secondary, post-secondary not higher

5-8 - Superior

    All data were collected from Eurostat

To what we have summarized above as a general framework follows by the development next, where we can observe the evolution of the weight of each educational segment between 2011 and 2020, without gender distinction:

2011 – Educational profile of European countries

2020 – Educational profile of European countries

The observation of the two graphs shows some changes to the pattern, constituted by the predominance of people with intermediate levels of education (3-4); regardless of gender.

In 2011, five countries were out of this pattern, where the portion of the population with the lowest qualifications (0-2) is predominant. Thus, the 5 most negative situations (in %) are:

2011 – Turkey (70), Portugal (64.2), Malta (58.9), Spain (47), Italy (45.5)

2020 - Turkey (58.7), Portugal (44.5), Malta (40.3), Italy (39), Spain (38.2)

And, the 5 least dramatic situations (in %) were evidenced in:

2011 - Czech Republic (13.9), Slovakia (15.7) Lithuania (15.9), Poland (17.5), Estonia (17.7)

2020 - Lithuania (10.8), Czech Rep. (12.3), Poland (12.9), Slovakia (13.5) Latvia (14.6)

A Europe at various speeds, with very different population profiles, in the chapter on levels of education, inducers of various levels of income and well-being, despite the existence of community funds that serve only to maintain these inequalities without social convulsions. This structural situation is guaranteed by the action of closed political oligarchies, reactionary and corrupt, obedient to the great multinational emporiums and the financial system; that, in order to maintain their power, they repay the parties politicians and their mandarins with legal and illegal funding.

In 2020 there are some changes, but none in the sense of strengthening the workforce populations with (0-2) education profile. The biggest breaks in the representativeness of the profile (0-2) in the period 2011/20 are observed in Portugal (19.7%), Malta (18.6%), Greece (12.8%) and Turkey (11%) in a context where, in the EU-27, the reduction was 5.4%. These reductions show the greatest cognitive demands that productive and cultural processes are placing in the new generations and, on the other hand, the deaths of older people with qualifications acquired in very ancient times. It should be noted that in Germany, in 2020, we find the only case of population increase with the profile (0-2).

In 2011, there was no situation of predominance of an echelon representation of (5-8) qualifications. On the other hand, the weight of the population, in 2020, included in that level grows, in all countries with the highest increase cases, above 10%, in Austria (15%), Malta (12.9%), Lithuania (10.8%) and Switzerland (10.4%). In 2020 and, with regard to the weight in the population of 15/64 years old, the most expressive marks in the grade (5-8) of qualifications are showed in Ireland (42.8%), Luxembourg (40.9%) and Cyprus (40.2%), and also in Norway, Belgium and Iceland which outperform the segment (3-4) of qualifications by a small margin.

 2 - Level of qualifications (0-2)

The weight in the total population at level 0-2, regardless of sex, can be observed. In none case the representation of this level of education increases, between 2011 and 2020, and the main falls are recorded in countries where this level of education was most significant in 2011. Turkey, in 2020 is the only country where, in the last year, the population with the level of education 0-2 remained above 50% of the population; Portugal and Malta lost this "distinction" in force in 2011.

Also in global terms of qualification 0-2, it is observed here the situation of the female population, on the one hand, and the male population, on the other. So the break for the cast of women in that qualification profile (-6.5 percentage points) is higher than that of men (-4.4 pp), between the two years to which the data refer. The biggest reductions in the female population are registered in Malta (20.3 pp), Portugal (20 pp) and Iceland (13.1 pp), with only one case of increasing, albeit marginal, in Germany (0.2 pp). The fall of indicators is more evident in women than among men, especially in Iceland (7.4 pp), Austria (4 pp) and Switzerland (3.8 pp), the opposite occurring in Greece (4.2 pp) and Latvia, among others.

 The targeting for level 0-2 between women and men has the following profiles:

In summary, the 5 situations with the greatest weight for female populations (in %) are:

 2011 – Turkey (75.0), Portugal (60.9), Malta (59.1), Spain (44.9), Italy (44.0)

2020 - Turkey (62.2), Portugal (40.9), Malta (38.8), Italy (36.7), Spain (34.8)

 And, the 5 most acceptable situations (in %) all verified in Eastern Europe are:

2011 - Lithuania (14.3), Estonia (14.9), Latvia (15.7), Czech Rep. (16.0), Slovakia and Poland (17.1)

2020 - Lithuania (9.0), Latvia (11.8), Poland (12.2), Estonia (12.4), Czech Rep. (12.9).

Portugal and Malta show the biggest reductions in the volume of women in this age group of qualifications (about 20 pp), although this does not change the hierarchy on the podium, nor does it change the distance relating to Turkey which maintains the largest share of women with this pattern of qualifications. On the other hand, after the general reduction in 2020, the compression margin will tend to decrease, by effect of the mortality of the elderly, with less education, a fact combined with the entry into the levels of higher education, of younger women.

In the case of males, the reduction in their weight in total, in the period 2011/20 is 4.4 pp, clearly below the observed for women (-6.5% pp, as mentioned). In total population aged 15/64 years, the weight of men in total, increased from 30.5% to 26.1%. Luxembourg and the Czech Republic show, in 2020, zero variations in the share of men with levels educational 0-2.

In summary, the 5 situations with the greatest importance of male populations (in %) are:

2011 – Portugal (67.6), Turkey (64.8), Malta (58.7), Spain (49), Italy (47)

2020 - Turkey (55.1), Portugal (48.3), Malta (41.6), Spain (41.5), Italy (41.4);

and, the 5 situations with less relevance of the male populations (in %) are:

2011 - Czech Republic (11.8), Slovakia (14.2), Germany (16.4), Lithuania (17.5), Poland (18)

2020 - Czech Republic (11.8), Lithuania (12.6), Slovakia (13), Poland (13.7), Slovenia (13.9)

The main reductions (> 10%) in this male segment in 2011/20 are observed in the South (Portugal, Malta, and Greece) in addition to Ireland. Only in Germany shows a growth in the weight (3.8%) of this slice of the male population, perhaps with the entry of many immigrants, coming largely from the Near East; the same happens with women but on a much lower scale (0.2%).

3 - Level of qualifications (3-4)

Level 3-4 is, roughly speaking, the one where the largest number of people are integrated in the set of both sexes; it constitutes the intermediate level of qualifications. The people included in this level, in 2011 they emerged as the largest segment of the population, except in Spain, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Iceland and Turkey, where the dominant group is that of the least instructed (0-2) population. On the other hand, in 2011, there is no record in which level 5-8 is shown dominant. Nine years later, there are notorious changes.

The countries where the 0-2 level is dominant, they belong, in 2020, to the Mediterranean basin – Turkey, Portugal, Malta, and Spain. On the other hand, there are six countries that started to consider the echelon of higher education (5-8) as the dominant, a situation that did not exist nine years before  Ireland (42.8%) and Luxembourg (40.9%) with the highest indicators and also, Cyprus, Norway, Belgium, and Iceland.

In the graph below, the segmentation of countries into two groups can be seen; that of those who increase the relative weight in 2011/20 and those that reduce it. The strongest population growth with education levels (3-4) are registered in countries on the southern periphery – Portugal (9.9%), Greece (6.5%) and Malta (5.7%), among others, a fact that is not registered in the South and East, on the contrary. In between to the latter, Austria reduces its population with education level 3-4, by 10.6% followed by Luxembourg (-7.4%).

In the first situation are the countries of the Mediterranean fringe, with educational profiles weaker than the rest, to the north and east, where changes are made towards strengthening higher educational levels (5-8). Portugal and Greece have the biggest rises in the weight of level 3-4 and overlap with Turkey regarding the low representation of that level education, being still at a stage of educational development, passing the level 0-2 to 3-4; while the rest are reinforcing the relevance of the highest qualifications (5-8) at the expense of levels 3-4.


As a rule, for the EU as a whole, the share of men with education level 3-4 is higher than that of women in 2011 and in 2020, even though in both cases there was a slight fall; however, in most cases gender differences are not very relevant.

In the case of men, their share of this level of education in Portugal exceeded 19.7% of the total to 31.5%, the biggest rise overall, followed by Greece with 9.9 pp of increase. These rises occurred essentially in Southern Europe but, including France, Finland, and Ireland. As for the reduction in the proportion of men included in this profile, the largest falls are registered in Austria (-10.7%), Luxembourg and Germany.


For women, there is an overall reduction of 1.3%, which does not show great difference compared to that recorded for men (-1%); and even though there are many more cases of a reduction than of increases in the female population with education included in profile 3-4. The vast majority of cases of reduction is seen in the group of countries located to the north and center of Europe, especially Austria (-10.5%), Luxembourg (-8%) and Latvia (-7.3%). Concerning the situations of the most relevant increase in female labour, Portugal and Malta arise, respectively with 8 and 5.6%, an evolution essentially present in the countries of the South, with the exceptions of Ireland, France, and Iceland.

4 - Level of qualifications (5-8)

All the considered countries show an increase in the weight of the population with this level of qualifications, as a reflection of the demands that the acquired knowledge keep up with the social, economic and cultural evolution: that constitutes a characteristic of the historical process, even we verify the existence of areas of civilizational regression with greater or lesser temporal dimension.

In 2011, the level of education 5-8 did not appear as the most relevant among the considered countries; the cases in which this type of population had the greatest relative importance were Ireland (34.4%), Cyprus (33.7%), GB (33.2%) and still, with indicators above 30%, countries such as Belgium, Estonia, Luxembourg, Finland, and Norway. Nine years later, in 2020, the higher indicators corresponded to countries such as Ireland (42.8%), Luxembourg (40.9%) and Cyprus (40.2%) and Belgium, Iceland and Norway. In this context, in none of the considered countries, we see a reduction of the relative weight of the population with qualification 5-8.

The situations of greatest growth in the relative weight of the 5-8 segment of qualifications in the period 2011/20 appear in Austria (15%), Malta (12.9%), Lithuania (10.8%), Switzerland (10.4%) and in Portugal and Slovenia with 9.9%. On the opposite pole, that of situations of weak growth in the relevance of this type of training, are found in Germany (2.9%), Romania (3.3%), Italy (4.7%) and also Northern Macedonia, Hungary and Bulgaria.

The following graph reveals the differences between European countries in terms of more qualified population weight; as well as the huge differences between national indicators – in 2011 the Irish indicator is triple of that registered by Turkey and, in 2020, this cleavage shrinks slightly compared to Romania.

In summary, the 5 situations where the relief of the most skilled populations is greater (in %) are:

2011 – Ireland (34.4), Cyprus (33.7), Finland (32.5), UK (33.2), Norway (32.1)

2020 - Ireland (42.8), Luxembourg (40.9), Cyprus (40.2), Finland (39.8), Switzerland (39.3);

 And, the situations with less relevance of this set of qualifications (in %) are:

2011 – Turkey (11.3), Romania (12.9), Italy (13.2) Northern Macedonia (15.0) Malta (15.1), Croatia (15.4) and Portugal (15.5)

2020 - Romania (16.2), Italy (17.9), Turkey (19.7), Northern Macedonia (20.0) and Croatia (22.0)

There are no cases of reduction in the relative weight of this type of qualifications; the cases where the evolution was weaker, in the period 2011/20, are Germany (12%), Estonia and Cyprus (19%). Conversely, the largest increases are observed in Austria (92%), Malta (85%), Turkey (74%) and Portugal (64%).

Now, let us observe the increased role of women in the set of higher qualifications (5-8). Within the population aged 15 to 64 years, with training in the higher echelons (5-8), the following elements, reveal the greatest commitment and dynamism of women regarding the possession of higher qualifications; even though, in many situations, women are relegated to painful functions, inadequate to their knowledge, precarious and, with lower salaries than men.




Variation 5-8

Level of skills

5 - 8

0.2 / 3-4

5 - 8

0-2 / 3-4




26.5 %















The 5 situations where the most skilled women are more prominent (in %) are all in the north of the Europe:

2011 – Estonia (38.8), Finland (37.9), Ireland (37.6), Norway (36.1), Sweden (33.8)

2020 - Finland (46.7), Ireland (46.1), Cyprus and Sweden (44.9), Norway (44.3);

 and, the situations with less relevance of this set of qualifications (in %) are:

2011 – Turkey (9.5), Romania (13.2), Italy (14.6) Austria (14.8), Malta (15.3), Macedonia of the North (15.4);

2020 - Romania (17.5), Turkey (18.8), Italy (20.6), Northern Macedonia (22.0) and Czech Republic (24.5).

The evolution of the presence of women in the scope of the highest basic qualifications shows that there is no case of regression; on the contrary, in all countries there is a growth in the share of women. For example, in the considered period, there are eleven situations with the score exceeding 40%, linked to three situations where the threshold exceeds the 45% - Estonia, Ireland, and Finland.

As for the lowest indicators, in 2011 there were four situations in which women represented less than 15% of those qualified with level 5-8 of education (Romania, Turkey, Italy, and Austria). In 2020, the 20% threshold was only not reached by Romania and Turkey.


Even these indicators reveal a low female participation, the observed evolution between the two moments in comparison is notorious.

As for the male population with higher education, as for women, there are no cases of regression in this population segment, in the period 2011/20. In 2011, only five countries presented values ​​above 30%, as mentioned below; nine years later the number of countries was fourteen. And, among these, three exceeded 35% (Ireland, Netherlands and Cyprus, as can be seen in the graph) and, the remaining two – Switzerland and Luxembourg – had more than 40% of the male population with qualifications fitting profiles 5-8.


Concerning male work, the 5 situations where the weight of more skilled men is greater (in %) are:

2011 – Switzerland (33.5), Luxembourg (33.4), UK (32.4), Ireland (31.1), Cyprus (30.2);

2020 - Switzerland (41.5), Luxembourg (40.2), Ireland (39.3), Netherlands (35.5), Cyprus (35.2);

 and, the situations with less relevance of this set of qualifications (in %) are:

2011 – Italy (11.7) Romania (12.6), Portugal (12.7), Turkey (13.1), Croatia (14.0);

2020 - Romania (15.0), Italy (15.1), Maced. North (18.1), Croatia (18.3), Slovakia (19.5).

It will certainly not be strange that in those two countries - Switzerland and Luxembourg - the financial sector has a unique relevance and provide a relevant contribution to the concentration of people with high qualifications.


Education levels among the peoples of Europe (1st part)


School leaving in Europe (2000-2018) - 2nd part


Education and the economic model for Southern Europe (1)


Inequalities in demographic dynamics in the Iberian Peninsula (1990/2019)


Historical note

In the context of the EU, Portugal presents a negative situation, which leads us to think on some historical factors. During the fascist regime, in force between 1926/74, the levels of illiteracy were very high, which was consistent with the Catholic and patriarchal character of the regime. One can take as an example, the position of the dictator Salazar, for whom women's illiteracy, for example, was considered a form to maintain the decency and good social practices of Catholic morality, since they could not write “little notes to lovers”… certainly full of indecency.

The current post-fascist regime, anchored in the PS/PSD (socialist and social-democratic parties), certainly did not co-opt those ultramontane prejudices; it was confined to maintain a low level of qualifications, the adequate to the characteristics of Portuguese businessmen that, statistical data meanwhile removed from publication (Iberian Peninsula in Numbers), showed that the Portuguese employers had qualifications lower than the ones of wage earners; which contrasted with what was happening in Spain and Europe in general.

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