The percentage of Spanish youths aged 15 to 29 who neither work nor study continues to grow, and remains among the highest rates of all developed countries.
This year, the figure reached 24.4 percent (almost two million people), according to the 2013 Education at a Glance report presented today by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The findings point to a 69-percent increase in the percentage of young Spaniards with at least a professional training certificate or university degree that neither study nor work. This statistic stands in sharp contrast to the stereotype of a young, rebellious nini (the Spanish neologism for a youth who neither works nor studies) who has opted to leave school early, thus limiting their chances of employment.
In reality, the early dropout rate (individuals from 18 to 24 who stopped studying after secondary school), while still relatively high, is currently at an all-time low (24.9 percent). The OECD report notes that in Spain, “the percentage of youth who continue studying after finishing their obligatory schooling has grown at a rate that is faster-than-average for OECD countries.” In 2008, 81 percent of young people ages 15-19 and 21 percent of those ages 20-29 were enrolled in school. By 2011, these figures had grown to 86 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
In all OECD countries, the proportion of students between 15 and 19 increased from 81 to 84 percent, and for the 20-29 age group increased from 25 to 28 percent. This upsurge in voluntary education has put Spain above the OECD average and other countries such as Australia (84 percent), United States (80 percent), France (84 percent) and Switzerland (85 percent).
The percentage of youth who continue studying after finishing obligatory schooling has grown"
Thus, the OECD report reflects an educational system that has recently begun to attract students who before the crisis would have left school early to start working, typically in sectors where low-skilled jobs abounded, such as construction. However, further down the road, once they have earned a higher education diploma, they will probably face unemployment and may even have difficulty obtaining further specialized training. The report estimates that the average Spaniard aged 15 to 29 will spend 2.5 years out of work.
The report from the international organization highlights other national trends, such as the shortage of students opting for vocational training. In Spain, 14 percent of adults have studied through baccalaureate, or university-track high school (the OECD average is 12 percent), but only eight percent have obtained mid-level vocational training (the OECD average is 34 percent).
Between 2008 and 2011, the unemployment rate rose from 13.2 to 26.4 percent among those who had completed the minimum compulsory education (the OECD averages were 8.8 and 12.6 percent respectively), from 9.3 to 19.2 percent among those with baccalaureate or mid-level vocational training (from 4.9 to 7.3 percent across the OECD) and 5.8 to 11.6 percent among university graduates (3.3 to 4.8 percent in the OECD).
Finally, the report highlights that women who continue their studies reap the benefits. In Spain, those with baccalaureate or mid-level vocational training earn 79 percent of the average salary of men with the same training. Those who completed only a basic secondary education (up through age 16) earn just 76 percent of the male wage. Those who fare best are women with university education, who earn 88 percent when compared to male counterparts with the same degree.