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School’s out, but what’s next?*

Over the past few weeks, many young people walked through the doors of high schools and universities for the last time. For some, the next steps of their journey are well mapped out – more education, an internship, maybe even a job. For others, things are far less clear.

Their uncertainty is underlined by the latest data on “NEETs” – young people not in employment, education or training – in OECD countries. On average in 2011 (the most recent year for which internationally comparable statistics are available),  around one in six young people between the ages of 15 and 29 fell into that category. In some OECD countries, the proportion rose to as high as one in three among people in their mid to late-20s.

These numbers appear in the latest edition of the OECD’s Education at a Glance, which paints a worrying picture of the job prospects of young people in the wake of the Great Recession. But it also underlines the continuing – and growing – importance of education as they make their way in the world.

Take the figures for joblessness. Between 2008 and 2011, unemployment among people with relatively little education rose by 3.8 percentage points in OECD countries. For graduates, however, it rose by less than half that, 1.5 points. As the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher told the Financial Times yesterday, “The crisis has amplified the value of a good education.”

*OECD Insight Blog

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