Canada is a world leader when it comes to churning out adults with post-secondary education – but it has work to do in integrating young, highly-skilled people into the work force.
Canada ranks first among industrialized countries in the proportion of adults with a college education and eighth in the portion of adults with a university education, an annual OECD study on education shows.
Canada "continues to be a leader in higher education, with its high attainment rates and its ability to produce a skilled work force with generally good labour-market outcomes," Tuesday's paper said.
There are "areas for improvement" however. Labour outcomes for young adults "show signs that the economic crisis hit this group particularly hard."
Canada's youth jobless rate rose to 14.8 per cent last month, and employment levels are lower than a year ago – despite sturdy job growth among other age groups in the country. The average student jobless rate, at 17.8 per cent, was higher this summer than in 2011 and 2010.
The study shows Canadian men with tertiary education are more likely to be employed than women with a similar background. That said, highly educated women see a greater wage premium than similarly-educated men.
As research has consistantly shown, higher levels of education tend to boost earnings. In Canada, someone with higher education earns an average of 38 per cent more than an individual with only a secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education.
It's a sizeable premium -- though not nearly as wide as among other OECD countries, where the average difference is 55 per cent.
The smaller payoff on education may stem from the fact that many new grads aren't working. The study cites Statistics Canada research which has found some highly educated people report working is not their main activity. That absence in participation in the labour market raises questions "about a possible under-use of skills that are costly to produce," the OECD said.
All told, Canada ranks first in the proportion of 25-to-64 year-olds with a tertiary education (at 51 per cent) of all 37 OECD and G20 countries with available data.
Across most advanced economies, labour market demand for all university grads remains high. The wage premium for workers with degrees has risen by an average of 10 per cent over the past decade, the study found.
Of particular concern are NEETs -- Canadians between 15 and 29 years of age who are neither employed nor in education and training. The portion of people in this category grew between 2008 and 2010 -- at similar rates as increases in Greece, the United States and Poland.
The steepest rise in NEETs was among the 20-to-24 year-old crowd -- where the percentage hit 15.3 per cent in 2010 from 13 per cent in 2008. By contrast, a number of countries, including Turkey, Brazil and Germany, all saw either no change or decreases in their proportion of NEETs in this period.