International women’s day: education for equal opportunities

From improving the access to an adequate salary, to raising the number of enrolments in school, the path to equality is still long – says a European Training Foundation analysis on education trends in the European neighbourhood. Yet there’s a way to make change happen: investing in vocational education.

From Ukraine to Algeria: striking common trends

The study –  which focuses on countries such as Albania, Algeria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Palestine, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine –  highlights a striking trend: in all countries, women participate less than men in vocational education. Given the increase of employability that this type of education offers, the natural consequence is a lower level of job opportunities/employment prospects for women. The proportion of young women enrolled in vocational programmes at upper-secondary level range from less than 10%, in countries like Georgia and Algeria, to 60% or more in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

A sorry state of affairs: women’s exclusion

NEETs (Not in employment/education/training) in the EU neighbourhood (2017; % of 15-24-year-olds)

In 2017 the share of 15-24 year-old women not in employment, education nor training (NEET) was much higher than that of men. In a large group of countries – including Georgia, Moldova, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina – one in four women is inactive;  in Jordan and Algeria, this trend affects one in two young women. The gender gap is most evident in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries, where the female rate is sometimes double that of males.

Women: more university-like

A more positive trend emerges from the analysis of access to university: in most countries surrounding the European Union, women outperform men in tertiary attainment (university level). But unfortunately, this does not always lead to appropriate skills matching: it is common that women find jobs which are way below their educational level. As an example, in North Macedonia and Montenegro one in ten women having studied hard to finish high-school, end up in jobs that require only basic skills.

Finding a job: a male prerogative

In most countries bordering the EU, women are more likely to be jobless. However, this fact is even more pronounced in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean: every other Palestinian woman is unemployed compared to one in four men; and in Algeria, the gender gap is even worse - the female unemployment rate is 20.7% against a male rate of 9.4%. Among other factors, this is also linked to imbalances in access to lifelong learning: with the exception of Ukraine and Serbia, women participate less than men in adult training. In countries like Albania, Georgia and Jordan, only 1% of women aged 25-64 took part in adult training programmes in 2017.

Facts matter, but quality is key

Data show that imbalances are still high in the EU’s neighbouring countries, and result from many factors: socio-cultural norms, less favourable working environments or (and?) family duties. Raising education opportunities can increase women’s opportunities to access jobs, and better ones, with positive consequences for their lives. However, access to training should not be pursued in purely quantitative terms: the content and focus of skills should also match future labour market contexts. To learn more, click here.