Education Level UK

United Kingdom

Having a job brings many important benefits, including: providing a source of income, improving social inclusion, fulfilling one’s own aspirations, building self-esteem and developing skills and competencies. In the United Kingdom, more than 71% of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job. This figure is higher than the OECD employment average of 65%. Employment rates are generally higher for individuals with a higher level of education; in the United Kingdom an estimated 85% of individuals with at least a tertiary education have a paid job estimated 57% for those without an upper secondary education. This 28 percentage point difference is slightly lower than the OECD average of 34 percentage points.

Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market. In the United Kingdom, 67% of women have jobs. This is more than the OECD average of 58% but less than the 76% employment rate of men in the United Kingdom. This 9 percentage point gender difference is lower than the OECD average of 15 percentage points and suggests the United Kingdom could further improve employment opportunities for women but has generally been successful in addressing the constraints and barriers women face accessing work.

Unemployed persons are defined as those who are not currently working but are willing to do so and actively searching for work. Long-term unemployment can have a large negative effect on feelings of well-being and self-worth and result in a loss of skills, further reducing employability. In the United Kingdom, the percentage of the labour force that has been unemployed for a year or longer is currently at 2.8%, in line with the OECD average. There is little difference on average between men and women in the OECD area when it comes to long-term unemployment. In the United Kingdom, however, the difference is relatively high with an unemployment rate of 3.3% for men and 2.2% for women.

The wages and other monetary benefits that come with employment are an important aspect of job quality. People in the United Kingdom earn USD 41 192 per year on average, more than the OECD average of USD 36 118. Not everyone earns that amount however.In all OECD countries, men still earn more than women, with an average wage gap of 15.5%. In the United Kingdom, men earn 17.5% more than women. Also, whereas the top 20% of the population earn an estimated USD 52 779 per year, the bottom 20% live on an estimated USD 22 751 per year.

Another essential factor of employment quality is job security. Workers facing a high risk of job loss are more vulnerable, especially in countries with smaller social safety nets. In the United Kingdom, workers face a 5.2% chance of losing their job, slightly lower than the OECD average of 5.4%.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.

Better Policies for Better Lives

Helping at-risk students move from education to work

The Glasgow Youth Employment Partnership supports young people identified as at-risk in their penultimate year of compulsory education. The programme provides coaches who work with young people on a one to one basis. The young person will set goals and establish a programme of participation to move them towards a positive destination. Initially, this might involve small steps, but the aim is to move them into education, employment or training over a 24-week period. The young person receives an allowance of GBP 30 per week for participation and completion of the agreed steps.

The feedback and results of this initiative in Glasgow have been encouraging, with more participants and a higher rate of success than in other areas - 48% of the city’s 601 participants have achieved positive outcomes as a result.

Partnerships for job creation

Training colleges in Nottingham work with local employers to match skills with demand. Central College Nottingham and Kia Motors UK have agreed to a long-term partnership to train future employees for the company’s national dealership network. Over the duration of the partnership more than 700 apprentices will be trained, which is estimated to be worth over GBP 10 million to the local economy.

West Nottinghamshire has worked with employers in the corrugated paper industry (who are facing the challenge of an ageing workforce) to develop a flexible training programme. The programme incorporates the companies’ in-house training programmes into apprenticeships leading to a Technical Certificate, which has been submitted for approval to the relevant awarding body. The pilot programme has resulted in one local company committing to this apprenticeship framework as part of their workforce development strategy with an intake of between 10-15 new apprenticeships per year.


Interesting facts:

The Advanced Level General Certificate of Education, commonly referred to as an A-level, is a qualification offered by education institutions in England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Cameroon, and the Cayman Islands. It is also offered in Scotland by a small number of...

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