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EDUCATION INDICATORS: An International Perspective


Indicator 15: Labor Force Participation and Education

The percentage of 25- to 64-year-olds who are either employed or actively seeking work provides an indication of participation in a country's labor force. Participation rates differ among countries for several reasons, including the social and economic organization of labor markets and cultural attitudes regarding work. Workforce participation is also related to the age structure and education attainment levels of the population, with older adults and those with less education typically joining the labor force at lower rates. Also, full-time enrollment in an education program limits labor force participation.

  • Of the G-7 countries for which 1992 data were available, five had similar labor force participation rates, ranging from 75 percent in France to 79 percent in the United States. The one exception was Italy, whose rate was a much lower 65 percent.

  • In all the countries reported, labor force participation rates increased with the level of education attainment. For instance, 60 percent of U.S. 25- to 64-year-olds with a lower secondary education* or below were in the labor force. For 25- to 64-year-olds with an upper secondary education, nonuniversity higher education, or university education, the labor force participation rates in the United States were 80, 87, and 88 percent, respectively. At the university level, almost all of the countries had labor force participation rates that approached or exceeded 90 percent.

  • Compared with the United States, whose labor force participation rates at lower secondary and below and at upper secondary education were 60 and 80 percent, respectively, France (65, 84), the United Kingdom (65, 82), Portugal (65, 88), and the Nordic countries (e.g., Sweden, with rates of 86 and 93) had slightly higher rates.

* For further explanation of education levels, see the sidebar entitled ISCED levels of education


Table 15: Labor force participation rate for 25- to 64-year-olds, by highest level of education completed and country: 1992

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		Lower				Higher		Higher		Higher
		secondary	Upper		education	education	education
Country		and below	secondary   	(nonuniversity)	(university)	total
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
G-71
Canada		62.4		79.9		85.5		89.6		77.8
France		64.9		83.5		89.4		86.9		75.3
Germany		57.0		76.7		86.5		89.8		75.6
Italy		58.2		79.8		(2)		90.7		65.1
United Kingdom	64.5		82.1		84.0		90.3		77.5
United States	60.3		79.7		86.7		88.4		79.2
Other
Australia	65.1		80.2		83.2		89.2		74.4
Austria		52.8		73.9		(2)		88.4		68.1
Belgium		56.1		78.8		85.3		88.9		68.0
Denmark		73.0		88.9		93.4		93.7		83.3
Finland		69.8		84.7		85.7		91.8		79.8
Ireland		57.3		70.7		81.9		87.9		65.2
Netherlands	55.4		77.0		(2)		85.5		69.7
New Zealand	67.0		79.1		80.9		89.5		75.2
Norway		65.0		83.2		88.8		93.3		81.4
Portugal	65.1		88.4		91.0		95.2		68.8
Spain		57.6		80.2		89.0		86.4		63.7
Sweden		86.2		93.0		94.3		95.2		91.4
Switzerland	71.7		82.2		91.9		92.7		82.3
Turkey		58.3		74.7		(2)		90.2		61.3
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1/ No data available for Japan.
2/Data included in another category.

NOTE: See supplemental note to Indicator 15 for details on indicator calculation for Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Center for Educational Research and Innovation, International Indicators Project, 1995.


Figure 15: Labor force participation rate of persons 25-64 years of age who have attained various levels of education, by the highest level of education completed and G-7 country:1,2 1992

Figure 15

1/ No data available for Japan.
2/ Countries are sorted in descending order by overall labor force participation rate.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Center for Educational Research and Innovation, International Indicators Project, 1995.

See supplemental notes to Indicator 11.


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